New York revamps solar programs
May, 2016: Following months of uncertainty, in late March energy regulators in New York released their plans for the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).
The program, which funds PV rebates for customer-sited systems, officially expired at the end of 2009, leaving the incentives in limbo until the Public Service Commission (PSC) determined how to move forward.
For New York integrators and potential PV system owners, the most important programs are two RPS initiatives. For the customer-sited program, the PSC authorized $144 million to fund PV at residences and businesses over the next 5 years. Additionally, the PSC approved $150 million over the next 5 years to fund large-scale PV projects – as well as biofuel and fuel cell projects – in the New York City and lower Hudson Valley areas. Funded by utility ratepayers, the programs had been surviving on temporary »bridge« funding since the end of 2009; that funding caps residential systems at 5 kW, commercial systems at 25 kW and rebates at $1.75 per W.
While applauding the new RPS funding levels, Ron Kamen, president of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA), urged quick action to help boost what he says has been a precipitous slowdown in the state's PV market, which added about 12 MW in 2009 and was the seventh largest state market in the US. As evidence of the slowdown in 2010, Kamen cites statistics from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which administers the RPS programs, that show that applications for PV rebates in January and February totaled an average of $1.5 million per month, compared to over $5 million per month in 2009.
To counter that, Kamen urged an immediate boost of the rebate to $2 per W and elevating the residential system cap to 10 kW. Additionally, Kamen proposed that in the future the PSC and NYSERDA should adjust rebate levels every month or so in order to avoid the situation New York faced last year when its rebate programs ran out of money three times. »The Federal Reserve has an interesting process. They meet regularly and they adjust interest rates up or down depending on whether the economy needs to be sped up or slowed down,« he says. »And that is what this is – it is a fluid market that sometimes needs adjustment.
Far more important than any tweaks to the regulatory process, though, is potential action from the state legislature and Governor David Paterson. Currently, the state government is considering bills in the senate and assembly that would ensure that New York installs 5 GW of solar by 2025. So the industry faces yet another waiting game as those measures move through the legislative process.