Guest Post: New York Solar Energy is Growing Faster Than Ever Before
Written by John B. Rhodes, Chair of the New York State Public Service Commission and Alicia Barton, the President and CEO of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, this guest post outlines how New York State is working collaboratively to achieve and sustain our clean energy transition.
Earlier this week the world received yet another reminder that climate change is a crisis that demands bold and immediate solutions. On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a sobering report indicating that irreparable damage to our environment and communities could begin occurring as early as 2040. Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, in New York, we have not been waiting for this dire diagnosis, but have instead embarked on one of the most ambitious plans to reduce carbon emissions in the country. Our Clean Energy Standard, a mandate requiring 50 percent of New York’s electricity be generated by renewable sources by 2030, is an integral part of the State’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gases and has sent a strong market signal that New York is serious about decarbonizing our electricity supply.
New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) 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. Already, REV has driven more than 1,000 percent growth in the statewide solar market, improved energy affordability for 1.65 million low-income customers, and created thousands of jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and other cleantech sectors — in fact, there are over 146,000 workers employed in the clean energy field in New York.
These policies are working to encourage more solar developers and other clean energy businesses to move to New York and enable existing New York companies to grow their solar businesses. And it has been working: New York has more than 1,300 MW of installed and operating solar capacity, or enough to power approximately 229,000 homes, and we are rapidly adding more every day. New York State is now ranked third nationally for residential and commercial-scale solar installed (January—June 2018). Earlier this year the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) awarded contracts to twenty-two new utility-scale solar projects state-wide. And New York has been ranked third nationally in solar jobs by the Solar Foundation. Soon, $40 million will be available to support the strategic pairing of solar with energy storage to get us even closer to our clean energy and climate goals. We are proud of this progress and aim to keep the momentum going.
But as we reform our policies of the past to grow our clean energy economy for everyone, we know that smarter and fairer policies are now needed. With this in mind, and with continued stakeholder support, the policy (with the admittedly awkward acronym) VDER, or the Value of Distributed Energy Resources, was created to compensate the owners of solar projects for the value their solar systems provide. Being able to effectively identify and compensate these resources for the values they bring to the grid, consumers and society is at the heart of our efforts in New York to reimagine and redesign our energy system. Enacted by the New York Public Service Commission, VDER is a step in this direction in that it offers a more precise and accurate compensation methodology that supports other clean energy technology, such as energy storage.
Inevitably, with all new policies and change there are challenges, both those within and beyond our control. We know full well that there is room to build upon the aspects of VDER that are working today, and to address ongoing feedback and concerns, always with an eye towards improvement. In July, the Public Service Commission took another step towards making it easier for low-income electricity customers to own and participate in solar projects, and most importantly, receive the benefits of clean energy. Department of Public Service staff also issued two reports in July recommending further enhancements and refinements to VDER reflecting robust and ongoing public input and stakeholder engagement. We have received constructive comments on the reports and we are wrapping up the public comment and review period in anticipation of future action by the Public Service Commission.
The only way to achieve and sustain our clean energy transition here in New York State is for New York’s energy and environmental agencies to work iteratively and collaboratively with environmental advocates and the solar industry and other clean energy stakeholders to devise approaches that work today — and for the long run. We know we must continue to improve our approach and respond to the needs of the dynamic solar market and New Yorkers. To be clear, these are exciting times — New York is on the cusp of a spectacular clean power revolution. For New York, there is no turning our back on the sun.