The significant rise in solar installations this past year puts the importance of last week's decision by the New York Public Service Commissionin perspective. The action triples the net energy metering (NEM) participation caps for five of the state's major electric service providers, clearing the way for more New York consumers to receive fair credit on their utility bills for rooftop solar and other small-scale renewables that power their own electricity.
According to an annual Solar Trends Report to be released next month by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), solar markets are booming in the U.S. due to falling photovoltaic prices, strong consumer demand, available financing, renewable portfolio standards in some states, and financial incentives from the federal government, states and utilities. "The capacity of photovoltaic (PV) installations increased by 80 percent in 2012 to 3.3 GWDC compared with 2011," according to Larry Sherwood, author of the report. "And over 50 percent of that capacity was in the utility sector for the first time."
The decision increases net metering participation caps from 1 percent to 3 percent of 2005 peak demand for each of the five utilities, clearing the way for an additional 462 Megawatts (MW) of clean, distributed generation (DG) in New York. This amount of additional generation capacity is enough to power approximately 154,000 homes.
"With solar projections expected to continue to rise sharply in the near future, this decision comes at a particularly crucial time," said Jason Keyes, lead attorney for IREC. As NEM capacity in three of the five utilities is over 75 percent subscribed, New York's current 1 percent cap would have presented a major hurdle to future development in the state."
As stated in the decision, "net metering plays an important role in encouraging the adoption of clean, renewable, and distributed generation."
IREC participated in this proceeding and applauds the commission's decision to provide greater access to this important clean energy policy for the state's residents. The decision, which covers cases 12-E-0485 through 12-E-0490, applies to customers of Consolidated Edison, Niagara Mohawk, New York State Electric and Gas Corporation, Orange & Rockland and Rochester Gas and Electric.
In comments filed in January, IREC encouraged the commission to increase the NEM cap to 10 percent, in order to accommodate Governor Cuomo's NY SUN initiative and other clean energy goals in the state. Though the commission did not opt for a 10 percent cap, it did cite IREC's contribution to the proceeding as a factor in its decision to increase NEM participation caps.
"This decision highlights New York's ongoing dedication to clean energy and economic development for local DG markets," said Jane Weissman, IREC president and CEO. "We appreciate the opportunity to play a role in this proceeding."
This work was supported by funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative to remove regulatory barriers to clean energy development.
IREC believes clean energy is critical to achieving a sustainable and economically strong future. To pave this clean energy path, IREC works to expand consumer access to clean energy; generates information and objective analysis grounded in best practices and standards; and leads programs to build a quality clean energy workforce, including a unique credentialing program for training programs and instructors. Since 1982, IREC's programs and policies have benefitted energy consumers, policymakers, utilities and the clean energy industry.