New York's system benefits charge (SBC), established in 1996 by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), supports energy efficiency, education and outreach, research and development, and low-income energy assistance. To support the SBC program, the state's six investor-owned electric utilities collect funds from customers through a surcharge on customers' bills. The SBC program is administered by NYSERDA and funds numerous programs to improve the state's transmission and distribution infrastructure. The program goals include improving system-wide reliability and increasing peak-electricity reductions through end-user efficiency actions; improving energy efficiency and access to energy options for under-served customers; reducing the environmental impacts of energy production and use; and facilitating competition in electricity markets to benefit end-users. Individual program solicitations can be found on the NYSERDA Current Funding Opportunities web page and other sections of the NYSERDA web site. Only customers that pay the SBC are eligible for assistance through the programs it funds.*
The SBC has gone through several iterations since it was first created in 1996 (see history section below). The first three authorizations extended the overall program through the end of 2011. In October 2011, the PSC extended the SBC for an additional five years through December 31, 2016. The renewed authorization (SBC IV) also shifted the activities and programs away from some areas that had previously been funded by the program. For instance, to a large extent the various customer-side energy efficiency programs that existed under the Energy $mart program label now fall under the state's Energy Efficiency Portfolio Standard (EEPS) although the funding mechanism for these programs is still often referred to as the SBC. The current SBC Technology and Market Development Program has an overall budget of $527.3 million.
In September 2012, the PSC ordered NYSERDA (Case 10-M-0457) to distribute uncommitted funds from SBC III to various programs of the Technology and Market Development Portfolio. $10 million will be allocated to a new initiative focused on reducing the balance-of-system costs for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations and the development of priority PV technology; $10 million for an energy storage initiative; $3 million for an Advanced Building Consortium; and $2,760,672 for a deep energy savings in commercial buildings initiative. A further funding supplement was authorized in December 2012, when the PSC reallocated roughly $86.7 million in EEPS funding (uncommitted funds and budget reductions for two programs) to support combined heat and power (CHP) and workforce development programs in SBC Technology and Market Development portfolio.
Although SBC funds may be used to support renewable-energy infrastructure, the program no longer provides financial incentives for most renewable-energy systems, most of which are instead eligible for funding under the Customer-Sited Tier of the state renewable portfolio standard (RPS). However, SBC funding may be available for technologies that are ineligible for RPS funding, or for efforts that support training, education, or market development of RPS-eligible technologies.
Under SBC I Initial funding totaled $234 million from 1998-2001 for energy-efficiency programs, R&D projects (including renewables), low-income energy assistance (including weatherization), and environmental disclosure activities. In January 2001, funding was expanded to $750 million total through June 30, 2006 (SBC II). In December 2005 the program was extended yet again (SBC III), bringing total 1998 - 2011 funding to $1.89 billion. In December 2010 a six month extension of the existing SBC III added roughly $90 million to this total. A full policy history of SBC I, II, and III can be found on PSC's SBC web site. It is important to note that these budget figures are not fully reflective of total energy efficiency and renewable energy funding in New York because a number of renewable energy and energy efficiency programs which were formerly funded through the SBC have been shifted into the RPS and EEPS programs.
*Customers of the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), the New York Power Authority (NYPA), municipal utilities, and electric cooperatives do not qualify for incentives funded by the SBC. The NYPA and LIPA both offer separate energy conservation programs for their customers.