Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Utilities, Developers Strike Deal on Solar Pricing in N.Y.

Home Solar Panel System (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
New York state's major electric utilities and three leading solar power developers yesterday announced an agreement on a new net-metering plan, a move that links two sides that elsewhere are in a pitched battle over the fair cost that owners of distributed solar units should receive for surplus carbon-free power they sell back to the grid.

The agreement preserves full retail electricity price credits for individual rooftop solar owners until 2020, while phasing in increased payments to utilities from developers of large solar installations.

The proposal was submitted to the New York Public Service Commission as a component of New York's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) policy, which recasts utilities as delivery services for customer and third-party electricity providers.  It was signed by Consolidated Edison, the state's largest utility; owners of four other utilities upstate; and SolarCity, SunPower and SunEdison following a negotiation facilitated by the Advanced Energy Economy Institute.

"We're working together to keep our state's solar market vibrant while enabling us to maintain the robust power grid that solar energy requires, and in a way that is fair to all customers," said John McAvoy, ConEd's chairman and CEO. "Utilities and solar companies have found common ground to enhance our environment, the economy and electric reliability."

"I think it's a really interesting proposal that I hope all the rest of the stakeholders can now examine," said Anne Reynolds, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, an advocacy group that includes environmental organizations and clean-tech companies. "But I think the nice thing about it is it shows the developers and the utilities can have productive conversations about these tough questions, like community net metering."

"It's very encouraging to see some of the leading solar companies and the utilities in New York collaborating instead of fighting against each other, as we've seen in other jurisdictions," said Jackson Morris, director for Eastern energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It's really striking that you're not seeing what has been historically almost ideologically a butting of heads."

The agreement proposes that owners of behind-the-meter residential rooftop solar units continue to receive the retail price of electricity as a credit for power delivered back to the grid through Jan. 1, 2020. This was a top priority of the solar power suppliers, according to people involved in the agreement. After the 2020 date, the solar credit would be reduced on a schedule to be set by the commission.

Payments to utilities would start immediately by developers of large-scale "community" solar farms, which effectively reduces the subsidies that solar power owners receive from other utility ratepayers, utility officials said.

The proposal is one of many submitted to the New York power regulators. The PSC's next step will be to convene discussion around what various stakeholders want to see in a final net-metering rule.

Read more at Utilities, Developers Strike Deal on Solar Pricing in N.Y.

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