FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 28, 2018
Central New York Solar Projects on the Line – Renewable Energy Advocates Hold Press Conferences Across New York Calling on Governor Cuomo to Save Community Solar
Contact: Jessica Azulay, Alliance for a Green Economy, 917-697-4472, firstname.lastname@example.org
Clay, New York – Today, renewable energy advocates joined members of the solar industry and New Yorkers from across the state to call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to save community solar in New York by restoring the option of net metering, the state’s previous policy for valuing solar power. New Yorkers held press conferences in Buffalo, Long Island, New York City, Clay, Elmira, and Kingston to tell Cuomo to #SaveOurSolar and #BringBackNetMetering.
The press conferences discussed solar projects that may never be built to due to a complex, flawed policy for valuing renewable energy that Governor Cuomo’s Public Service Commission created to replace net metering. The policy called VDER (or the Value of Distributed Energy Resources) was implemented in 2017, and since then, the growth of community solar has been stifled. Top solar developers estimate that over 800 million dollars worth of solar investment has been lost in New York because of VDER.
Clay Town Supervisor Damian Ulatowski discussed the impact of VDER on Clay’s clean energy aspirations: “With the Governor’s initiative to have New York State draw 50% of it’s energy from renewable energy sources by 2030, the Town of Clay got on board and started looking into ways to make itself one of the greenest communities in the state. It all started with a $500,000 Department of Energy grant to make our aging Highway facility energy efficient. That led to a local partnership with Warner Energy and NYSERDA for the installation of solar arrays on the town campus, resulting in thousands of dollars of savings each year due to the offsetting of nonrenewable energy with green solar power. It was followed by LED lighting and additional grant application that led to a tear-round solar greenhouse on what is known as the Clay Community Garden, where residents can take advantage of a controlled environment to cultivate their need to be earth friendly. We now have and EV charging station at the Town Hall and will soon take delivery on an all-electric car for use by town staff. We are a top finalist in another NYSERDA grant program: $150,000 for replacing overhead lighting with LED lighting. If our community wins that grant, it would save residents over $100,000 a year in lighting costs. Governor Cuomo, please bring back net metering so that we can save projects like our next 2.6MW solar project and not put into jeopardy similar solar projects across the state. NY needs projects such as these to take NYS closer to your 2030 goal.”
The Town of Clay is one of more than 20 municipalities in CNY facing barriers due to VDER. Together, these municipalities could host more than 75 megawatts of solar which could lower their operating costs and the burden on local taxpayers while also producing enough power for more than 8,000 residential customers. These projects would create hundreds of construction jobs, and more than double the amount of solar energy produced in Central New York.
“In our region we have lost over $268 million in local investment because of VDER,” said Chris Carrick, Energy Program Manager at the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board. “We need Governor Cuomo to act immediately to fix this problem so all New Yorkers have access to renewable energy and so that the solar industry does not pull up stakes and move out of New York.”
As more and more people in the United States choose solar energy and challenge the control over energy supply and prices enjoyed by monopoly utility companies, corporate utilities have been fighting back to hamper the ability of individuals and communities to go solar. A major utility strategy has been to challenge net metering rules which require utilities to allow people who adopt solar energy to sell their extra energy back to the grid and receive credits on their electricity bill. In New York, where community solar permits households, businesses and municipalities to band together to build shared projects that serve multiple utility customers from a large solar array located somewhere in the community, utilities grew increasingly concerned about losing revenue and successfully imposed a utility-centric VDER policy that is limiting community solar across the state.
Gwen Chaffin, Community Organizer with Syracuse United Neighbors, said: “Not everyone who cares about the environment can put solar on their roof. And that’s why residents in Syracuse and across CNY need community solar to be accessible and affordable. We need Gov Cuomo to stand up to utility companies and fulfill his promise that all New Yorkers would have access to renewable energy regardless of income or zip code.”
Communities are speaking out. After mounting public pressure from energy democracy advocates and solar companies, Governor Cuomo’s Public Service Commission recently admitted there’s a problem with VDER and released two white papers with suggested changes. But advocates say the changes are too complex, are being implemented too slowly, and don’t go far enough to fix the problem. The VDER policy currently benefits corporate utilities and makes it nearly impossible for working class communities and communities of color to access solar power.
Jessica Azulay, Director of Alliance for a Green Economy, said: “We urgently need Governor Cuomo to restore the option of net metering because we need a simple way to get reimbursed for the energy community solar participants put onto the grid. VDER is too complicated for the everyday person to understand. It unfairly reduces the value of the renewable energy that is put onto the grid. There is no way New York will meet our climate goals without providing fair value to people who choose to go solar.”
“The temporary improvements proposed by the NY Department of Public Service are Band-aids on a billion dollar problem,” said Bob Rossi, Executive Director of the New York Sustainable Business Council. “We need immediate and appropriate action to restore the healthy growth solar experienced under net-metering. New York’s solar industry represents over 9,000 jobs and has the potential to employ far more, but investors are now looking to other states for better returns on their solar project investments. VDER is failing us. The impact is clear. This problem is too urgent for incremental fixes.”