Cuomo unveils community-based renewables program

Energy Chairman Richard Kauffman: Giving individuals and communities more control of their energy future.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced a Shared Renewables Program on Thursday that aims to make clean and affordable energy available to millions of New Yorkers.

The program, part of Cuomo’s State of Opportunity Agenda, provides financial assistance and other resources for homeowners, renters, schools and businesses looking to establish joint renewable-energy projects that cut costs and reinforce “clean” generation standards.

Under the “community distributed generation” initiative, customers can join together to share power generated by local renewable-energy efforts, including solar- and wind-generation projects. Customers’ individual production will appear as a credit on their monthly utility bill.

The Shared Renewables effort will be rolled out in phases. During the first phase, running from Oct. 19 of this year to April 30, 2016, accepted projects will be limited to those that create distributed generation in areas where they can provide the greatest benefit to the larger power grid and to projects that support economically distressed communities.

To meet the latter requirement, at least 20 percent of residents affected by a local project must qualify as low- or moderate-income customers.

Phase Two, slated to begin in May 2016, will make resources for Shared Renewables projects available throughout the state.

As part of a multipronged approach, Cuomo is encouraging project developers to align utility incentives to bolster their Share Renewables efforts, while the state’s Public Service Commission is researching ways to encourage low-income customer participation in community-distributed energy programs.

There are a number of ways for individual customers to participate. For instance, condominium residents can choose a “sponsor” – such as a developer, energy firm or even an LLC formed by the residents themselves – to organize a solar-panel project. More ideas on how customers and communities can be involved can be found at www.ny-sun.ny.gov/Community-Solar.

This so-called “democratization” of power production will give individuals and communities more control of their energy future, noted Richard Kauffman, New York’s chairman of energy and finance.

“New York State is once again at the forefront of progressive energy policy by empowering millions of our residents, schools and businesses to choose renewable power for the first time,” Kauffman said.

Extending renewable energy’s reach into underserved communities makes economic, social and environmental sense, according to Cuomo, who noted the Shared Renewables effort is the latest clean-energy effort in a state already reaping massive statewide renewables benefits. According to Cuomo, installed solar capacity across New York grew by more than 300 percent between 2010 and 2014, easily outpacing solar growth the rest of the nation.

“This program is about protecting the environment and ensuring that all New Yorkers, regardless of their ZIP code or income, have the opportunity to access clean and affordable power,” Cuomo said. “The Shared Renewables initiative will help people and communities save money on local clean-energy projects.”