By Whitney Files
Distributed solar energy has been growing by leaps and bounds in the U.S., with 65 percent growth among residential installations in 2013 alone.
However, low-to-moderate-income (LMI) households in New York state have been mostly left behind for two significant reasons: 1) lower income levels make it difficult for LMI residents to benefit from tax credits or low-cost financing; and 2) LMI residents often rent their homes (46 percent of renters nationwide have incomes below $30,000). This is unfortunate, as lower-income residents spend a greater proportion of household income on electricity bills -- as much as 7 percent to a whopping 29 percent of annual income (PDF).
Luckily, an innovative solution is on the horizon in New York called community net metering. This model may allow LMI residents to benefit from the cost savings of distributed solar energy projects.
The shared or community net metering project translates into a direct financial benefit for participants, while providing a cleaner, greener energy source. Community net metering has the potential to open up solar PV to many more customers, in particular those who have not been able to qualify for financing or who lack a convenient sunny location to install solar panels.
PSC staff looked to a number of states for inspiration, including California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Colorado, Minnesota and Delaware. Taking up just under a page and a half, the rules cover such aspects as project size limits (2 megawatts), time limits on the usage of energy credits (one year), and location requirements (members must be located in the same utility service territory as the net metered project). It also offers some instructions for the host organizer, which can be an association, town, commercial entity or project developer that coordinates between the utility and the members.
The proposal presents a crucial opportunity to create rules that will address LMI household needs. There are a number of provisions that could be incorporated to promote this, including:
Image credit: Flickr/CoCreatr
Whitney Files is a Bard MBA in Sustainability Candidate (May 2015, expected graduation). You can follow her on Twitter @WhitneyFiles.
The Bard MBA in Sustainability focuses on the business case for sustainability. We train students to see how firms can integrate economic, environmental, and social objectives, the triple Bottom Line, to create successful businesses that build a more sustainable world. Graduates of the Bard MBA Program will transform existing companies, start their own businesses, and pioneer new ways of operating that meet human needs, while protecting and restoring the earth’s natural systems. The Bard MBA is a low-residency program structured around “weekend intensives” with regular online instruction between these residencies. Five of these intensives are held each term: four in the heart of New York City and one in the Hudson Valley. Residencies take place over four days, beginning Friday morning, and ending Monday afternoon. Learn more today.