Just last month, Governor Hochul committed to increasing New York’s minimum distributed solar energy goal to 10 gigawatts by 2030. New Yorkers elected leaders who passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019, a law to tax polluters and invest in clean energy jobs. 

Despite bold climate goals, the State is implementing policies that tax solar in NYC and make it more inaccessible. Governor Hochul has the ability to intervene before the end of the year. Let’s hold our leaders and the Public Service Commission to their word.

New York’s community solar credit has ended

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) authorized the Community Solar Credit in April of 2020. This credit subsidized 350 megawatts of community solar projects in Con Edison’s territory — New York City and Westchester. This was an initiative that offered flexibility for community solar that hadn’t previously existed, driving growth of the market unlike ever before. But the funding source for this credit has run out.

The funds have dried up…due to the State’s financing of fossil fuels

Due to a loophole in the program, the New York Green Bank — funded by electric customers — used nearly half of the community solar fund to finance natural gas fuel cell projects. Rather than further subsidizing clean, zero-emissions energy, the State instead financed more fossil fuel systems.

What’s more, this program has essentially been left in limbo. The community solar fund has dried up, and there’s been no effort by the State or PSC to replenish it. 

Earlier this year, NYSEIA and New York City petitioned the PSC to replenish the incentive to make up for the amount allocated toward natural gas projects and to further the program. The PSC announced a forthcoming report about the future of solar in NYC, expected to be released this fall. But until that happens, community solar development in NYC is stalled.

Community solar is NYC’s path towards achieving climate goals

The community solar program has been incredibly beneficial in spreading solar in NYC. With two-thirds of New Yorkers renting their homes rather than owning, home solar is not feasible for everyone. But community solar allows those who rent and those with lower incomes to benefit from clean energy without having to own the system. Con Edison estimates that there are around 9,000 electric customers in its territory that receive energy generated by community solar systems.

Further, it goes without saying that development in NYC is expensive and complex. Without support from the State’s community solar credit, many of these projects lose financial viability.

With a low percentage of homeowners and high development costs in NYC, community solar is the answer to New York’s clean energy goals.

A tax on New York solar is coming

The ending of the community solar credit is not the only way New York is undermining its goals. NYSERDA announced last year that Phase One Net Metering (net metering as it is now) will no longer be available for solar projects starting January 1, 2022. Also starting next year, Con Edison will be charging new solar customers a Customer Benefit Contribution (CBC) charge, as directed by the PSC. Both of these policy changes were implemented to address cost-shifting.

Like the community solar credit, the current Net Metering program has been instrumental in the spread of solar throughout NYC; yet this new charge disincentivizes the investment in solar. When it comes to cost shifting, the truth is that solar owners account for only about 1% of total electric customers in the state. Thus, any cost shifting that occurs cannot be very significant.

Making the switch to clean solar energy is a significant financial investment that benefits the entire grid; however, it will now result in an extra charge from Con Edison. This charge will unfairly target solar customers and therefore stunt the growth of residential solar in NYC.

new york solar, nyseia, brooklyn solarworks, new york climate goals, clean energy, solar tax, community solar
We encourage the Governor and our elected officials to intervene on the Solar Tax before the end of the year. Credit: NYSEIA

Governor Hochul & the State still have time to act

With ambitious climate goals and a population that supports the Climate Act, New York’s solar industry should be thriving. Yet, there is a clear disconnect between the State’s clean energy goals and its current solar policies. But there’s still time to intervene. 

BSW joins NYSEIA in calling on Governor Hochul and the PSC to take action before the end of the year. The Governor and the PSC should work to replenish the community solar credit. They should also postpone fees on residential and commercial solar installations until the impact of imposing a solar tax within the context of New York’s climate goals is fully analyzed by an independent party.

We appreciate all that Governor Hochul is doing for clean energy in our state. But we encourage her to continue taking the lead to ensure New York can fully realize its solar goals by preventing the enactment of policies that undermine progress.

If you want to see New York stick to its word on clean energy goals, we encourage you to make your voice heard.

Contact the New York State Governor’s office HERE.

Find your New York State Assembly member’s contact information HERE.

Find your New York State Senator’s contact information HERE.

Our CEO, T.R. Ludwig, and EmPower Solar CEO David Shieren talked to Crain’s New York Business about New York’s solar future. Read their op-ed here.

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