New York Solarize

New York's new community net metering makes solar accessible

New York’s new community net metering rules mean solar energy, along with the savings and environmental advantages that come with it, just became more accessible too low-income and all residents in the state.

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that the state’s Public Service Commission approved new rules allowing for community net metering. The commission is calling the package of policies its Shared Renewable Program. Both the program name and the term community net metering are fairly descriptive of how the program will work.

While the details haven’t been released yet, advocates explain that the new rules will promote community solar gardens, which have become popular in states that allow them. Such gardens are patches of ground covered in solar panels that anyone can subscribe to – either with a subscription contract, lease or transferable panel purchase. Even though the energy isn’t generated on the subscriber’s property, he gets a credit on his utility bill for the power that goes to the grid from his subscription.

That means people don’t have to own their homes or be able to afford to purchase rooftop solar panels, have a sunny roof or even the credit and income required to sign a long-term lease for on-site solar panels in order to benefit from solar energy.

“This is a landmark initiative that will allow those who couldn't before invest in rooftop solar – either because they rent, live in multi-family homes, or have shady roofs – to participate in the booming solar market,” said Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York.  “Other renewable energy technologies can tap into this opportunity as well, and clean energy will now be accessible to more New Yorkers than ever."

The new rules will also enable condo associations to install rooftop solar and share the energy credits. It will enable neighborhoods to build small solar farms in the sunniest sections of the community and share the energy credits they generate. Beyond that, it will allow people who rent their homes or live in apartments to take advantage of solar energy and other renewable energy sources.

This announcement is only the latest in a series of progressive energy policies coming out of New York, where Gov. Cuomo is credited for encouraging strong renewable energy policy, according to a release from the Solar Energy Industries Association.

As a result of aggressive solar policies passed under Cuomo’s direction, the state ranked third for new installed solar capacity during the first quarter of 2015. New York trailed only California and Nevada.

“Through his leadership, the Governor is trying to make certain that all New Yorkers – and not just some of them – will benefit from a clean energy future,” said Rhone Resch, SEIA CEO. “For that to happen, equal access too solar is imperative. Community-shared solar projects are a great way to expand access and to make solar more affordable to even more people. As an industry, we commend the Governor and the state PSC for their commitment to renewable energy.”