New York Solar Providers, Utilities Look to Compromise on NEM

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In a joint proposal filed with the New York Public Service Commission, six New York-based utility companies recently united with three solar companies to try and promote the long-term growth of distributed solar.

The utility companies — Con Edison, Orange & Rockland, Central Hudson, National Grid, Rochester Gas & Electric and New York State Electric & Gas — are calling the partnership formed with the solar providers, the “Solar Progress Partnership.”

‘Fair to All Customers’

“We’re working together to keep our state’s solar industry vibrant while enabling us to maintain the robust power grid that solar energy requires, and in a way that is fair to all customers,” John McAvoy, the chairman and CEO of Con Edison, told T&D World. “Utilities and solar companies have found common ground to enhance our environment, the economy and electric reliability.”

The goal of the partnership, according to the members, is to help promote solar development in the state while quelling concerns over net energy metering (NEM) that have put homeowners, lawmakers, solar providers and utility companies at odds in states like California and Nevada. Taking a lead position out in front of the debate over the “fairness” of NEM, the partnership proposes a multi-step compromise to transition away from New York’s current net metering structure.

Utilities and Solar in Alignment

The plan, as proposed, aims to align all interests in service of the greater environmental and economic good. With many New York residents not having sufficient roof space for more extensive paneling, the plan includes specific provisions aimed at promoting the building of community solar programs and/or “remote net metering” arrangements designed to make solar energy at reduced rates more accessible.

“This is an important first step toward a solar energy policy for New York,” said Mark Lynch, president and CEO of NYSEG and RG&E. “The Solar Progress Partnership offers the framework to update the net energy metering mechanism with a more sustainable, equitable policy to support the growth of solar and other distributed energy resources.”

Full Net Metering Until 2020

As part of the proposed initiative, community solar customers would receive full retail net metering credits, partly subsidized by developers. Behind-the-meter solar generation would be credited at the full retail rate until 2020. After that period, net metering credits would decrease for new solar users.

This compromise in essence preserves current rooftop NEM standards until the year 2020, which will have current residential generators happy. After 2020, the formulation will more accurately reflect the value of the power generated, without shifting the cost onto non-solar users.

“The deep institutional knowledge of these six utilities, and the creative approach they are taking to the evolution of electricity, is inspiring,” remarked Lyndon Rive, CEO of one of the solar providers involved in the initiative. “Leaders like these will lay the foundation for the grid of the future.”

With utility companies and solar providers working together, New York seems to the breeding grounds for a lasting truce between the traditionally opposed sides. More importantly, this partnership bodes well for the continued economic benefit of consumers and the growth of renewable energy in general.

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