Energy

Solar Energy Advocates In New York Are Begging For Their Subsidies Back

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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter

Solar power advocates in New York are calling on regulators to reinstate a subsidy system meant to boost the solar industry, with many urging Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo for direct action.

“We’re here to call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to save community solar across the state of New York by restoring the option for net metering which is a way in which you get compensated simply and clearly for solar,” stated Energy Democracy Alliance member Adam Flint in an exchange with local media. Energy Democracy Alliance advocates for renewable energy in New York and opposes the state’s new solar subsidy program.

The issue dates back to 2017, when regulators reformed their subsidy rules.

Like many other states, New York had implemented net metering — a system where solar panel owners are credited at a retail rate for the power their panels produce and send to the grid. This crediting process incentivizes homeowners to purchase expensive solar panels with the lure of saving money in the long run by way of cheaper electricity bills. However, this process is controversial. When utility companies credit solar panel owners for more than their power is worth, it ultimately raises rates on all customers — even those who are not panel owners. (RELATED: New Yorkers To Foot The Bill For Andrew Cuomo’s Renewable Energy Agenda)

To address this issue, the New York State Public Service Commission in 2017 switched to a new system called Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER). Unlike net metering, VDER takes into account several factors when crediting solar panel owners, such as the value of energy in a particular area and the time of day. New York followed a growing number of state governments that have decided to roll back their subsidies to the solar installation owners.

The change in policy has had a noticeable effect on the industry. Chris Carrick — who works at the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board — claims the state has lost around $800 million in local solar investment.

“The outcome of this is driving solar development towards very limited areas of the state where the VDER policy is not so bad, but taking an axe to parts of the state like central New York,” stated Carrick.

Mothers Out Front, a climate change advocacy group, held a rally Tuesday that urged regulators and Cuomo to bring back net metering. Other environmental groups have made similar calls.

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