Written by John B. Rhodes, chair of the New York State Public Service Commission
New York has established the foundation of the State’s strategy to build a cleaner, more resilient, and affordable energy system for all New Yorkers by stimulating investment in clean technologies like solar and wind, energy efficiency, and energy storage. New York has also sent strong market signals that the Empire State is serious about decarbonizing our electricity supply. Central to these efforts is the development of community distributed generation, such as community solar.
Community distributed generation projects, or CDG, are designed to create new opportunities to participate in solar and other forms of clean energy for consumers that cannot otherwise reap the benefits of clean energy. These projects are typically much larger than residential clean energy projects, such as rooftop solar, and can achieve economies of scale. Moreover, CDG can be installed on land that is otherwise unusable for farming or residential purposes, which can help increase the productivity of unused land and the local tax base.
Recognizing the importance of creating broader access to clean energy, New York is one of only handful of states that has adopted CDG policies. The Public Service Commission’s current policy encourages development of CDG and other distributed generation. This policy is already bearing fruit. New York State is one of only two states to get an ‘A’ grade on the Interstate Renewable Energy Council’s National Shared Renewables Report card for our CDG program.
More solar developers and other clean energy businesses are moving to New York and existing New York companies are expanding their solar businesses. There are over 150,000 men and woman employed in the clean energy field in New York. We have more than 1,300 MW of installed and operating solar capacity from Long Island to Buffalo, enough to power approximately 229,000 homes, and we are rapidly adding more every day.
CDG also helps to democratize our renewable energy programs by providing all consumers with access to clean, reliable, and low-cost electricity including those living in multi-family housing across the state. Because CDG has unique potential to benefit low-income communities the Commission has acted to make it easier for low-income electricity customers to participate in CDG programs and will continue to focus on the needs of low-income New Yorkers. Both renters and homeowners can participate in a CDG project, and terms can be customized to serve individual customer needs.
Given that we are reimaging and redesigning an energy system that has over 100 years of legacy, we must remain disciplined in taking steps that can deliver a cleaner, more efficient and more affordable energy system for the benefit of all New Yorkers. Accordingly, staff are developing recommendations to further enhance and refine our value-based policies, with robust and ongoing public input and stakeholder engagement. Of note are recommendations to create additional opportunities for customers to participate in CDG projects.
The development of renewable CDG energy systems is essential as we continue our progress to our target that half of the State’s electricity needs with renewable energy by 2030. Our value-based policies offer the needed foundations to drive near term deployment of renewable energy projects that will deliver a robust and sustainable market for these projects and increased opportunities for all New Yorkers.