Energy Democracy Group Tells PSC to Release Renewables Report

By NYS Energy Democracy Alliance  

The New York State Energy Democracy Alliance is calling on the Public Service Commission (PSC) to release its long-awaited report on making shared solar energy accessible to all New Yorkers. The report, which is eight months late and has been delayed twice so far, is now supposed to be released Aug. 15. 

The Alliance hopes the PSC will – as Gov. Andrew Cuomo put it when he announced the Shared Renewables initiative – ensure that “all New Yorkers, regardless of their zip code or income, have the opportunity to access clean and affordable power.” 

New York’s pioneering Shared Renewables initiative was enacted by the PSC in July 2015 to allow communities to join together to build collective renewable energy projects – and to enjoy the health and economic benefits that flow from clean power.

“Traditionally, rooftop solar hasn’t been an option if you don’t own your own roof,” said Claude Copeland of the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition. “Shared solar lets renters, churches, schools, businesses and others band together to create renewable energy projects in their own communities. We are eager to see the PSC’s plans for encouraging access to clean, affordable, healthy energy generation – and the local jobs renewable energy creates – in all kinds of neighborhoods, all over the state.”

The Shared Renewables initiative presents a great opportunity for all New Yorkers to benefit from affordable, renewable power, but in the year since the PSC approved community renewables, the program has failed to match the strong community demand for solar.

Renewable energy should not be reserved only for homeowners or big business. Everyone should benefit, especially low- and moderate-income people and communities of color. People who often bear the brunt of energy insecurity, environmental injustice, and are working hard to make ends meet, can share in the benefits of renewable power – if the initiative doesn’t lock them out. The PSC’s report is supposed to outline plans for removing barriers blocking households and communities who want solar, but lack the capital or property ownership to participate.

“ROCSPOT hopes the PSC empowers our energy ecosystem to ensure community-owned renewable energy generators go from rare to commonplace,” said Dr. Susan Spencer, CEO of ROCSPOT; an organization focused on renewable energy in Rochester and the surrounding Finger Lakes Region. “There are critical regulatory rule changes which could make meaningful differences for many New York State residents. Engaging people in every part of the state, of every socioeconomic status, is the only way the governor’s call for 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 can become reality.”

The New York State Energy Democracy Alliance – made up of community-based organizations, grassroots groups, and others working to advance a just and participatory transition to a resilient, localized, and democratically controlled clean energy economy in the state – hopes the PSC will: 

● Replace the former, but temporary, requirement that every community renewable project have 20 percent low-income participation with a commitment that across the state, at least 20 percent of those who participate in shared solar will be low income. This will create greater flexibility for projects of all kinds, and create a goal for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to reach with low-income solar incentives. 

● Provide clarity for New York’s “net-metering” policy so that those investing in solar and committing to building or buying into projects have certainty as to what the value of the solar electricity generated by their panels will be. The state’s “net-metering” policy is currently in a state of flux that is discouraging new projects. 

● Create incentives specifically to help low-income people and communities participate in shared renewable energy projects. These incentives should be designed to ensure the state meets a goal of 20 percent participation of low-income people in shared solar statewide, and should also ensure that participation will be spread evenly across the state so that people in all regions benefit. 

● Provide technical assistance and grants for community groups and local governments that wish to develop not-for-profit, cooperative, or publicly owned shared renewable energy projects serving low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.

Here is a link to the original press release