Round Two of New York Solar Campaign Targets Low-Income Consumers

By Arleen Richards, Epoch Times
September 17, 2015 Updated: September 18, 2015

NEW YORK—A second round of campaigns to advance Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to rebuild New York’s energy infrastructure with clean, affordable options, particularly solar power, is targeting projects in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.

In a Sept. 17 press release, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced open enrollment until Nov. 16 in the NY-Sun Community Solar New York program. The program allows renters, homeowners, low-income residents, schools, and businesses to join together to set up shared renewable energy projects.

Started in 2013, the $1 billion NY-Sun initiative helps to reduce the cost of installing solar electric systems (or photovoltaic systems) by encouraging groups of potential solar customers to apply together. 

Renters can pool their buying power and get treated like a bigger customer without the upfront costs.

Next month, NYSERDA will launch the Shared Renewables program that will ensure at least 20 percent of the participants are from economically distressed communities.

Renters can pool their buying power and get treated like a bigger customer without the upfront costs. Through a solar lease, a third party owns the panels on their roof, so residents can enjoy lower electricity bills without the responsibility of maintenance and repairs, explains Elana Laichena, program manager for Here Comes Solar, one of the programs in Manhattan that helps connect neighbors with a solar company.

The governor’s goal is to grow the state’s clean energy economy by transforming the grid with renewable energy options. So far this year, more than 30 Solarize campaigns have been launched in communities across New York State, drawing thousands of New Yorkers to attend solar workshop events.

Even before the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) program was announced in 2014, solar was being advanced throughout the state. On July 6, Cuomo announced solar growth of more than 300 percent from 2011 to 2014. At that time it was reported that 314.48 megawatts of solar electric had been installed through December 2014, the equivalent of powering more than 51,000 homes. 

In the past, the program has been criticized for moving too quickly and potentially adding the costs of the programs onto consumers’ utility bills.

Peter Steidler, communications director for New York Affordable Electricity Alliance (NYAREA), a lobby group founded by the Entergy company, which owns the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, N.Y., previously told the Epoch Times that the program concentrated too much on new projects rather than addressing the immediate needs of improving the existing transmission grid.

He said the existing infrastructure is largely more than 40 years old and is going to be very expensive to fix. “There’s a lot of major investments and challenges that need to be made to New York’s grid,” he said. He called for more transparency in how the programs are being implemented and the costs involved.

According to NYSERDA, Solarize campaigns throughout the state help make solar a more affordable energy option by discounting the cost of solar systems and installations up to 20 percent. Through the Shared Renewables program, solar projects are required to provide customers with meaningful cost savings on their energy bills.