On May 14th, solar industry professionals from across New York State and beyond descended on Albany to attend the NYSEIA Policy Summit. The New York Solar Energy Industry Association’s annual event drew its largest crowd ever as developers, installers, and financiers react to NY’s recent policy changes. Most pressing on everyone’s mind was VDER, or the Value of Distributed Energy Resources tariff, as well as interconnection, permitting, and tax questions. NYSERDA President Alicia Barton, NY-Sun Director David Sandbank & Deputy Director Houtan Moaveni, and NYS Assembly Energy Committee Chair Michael Cusick were each in attendance to congratulate the industry’s rapid success to date and to sketch a roadmap for the next decade.
Here are Monolith Solar’s top three takeaways from the event:
1) Community Solar is the future. We’ve been saying it for the last year, but the retail market (Commercial & Industrial, Residential & Small Commercial) is going all-in on Community Solar. Everyone was excited about this emerging service and its potential to connect all New Yorkers with affordable solar energy. Both panelists and audience members had a multitude of ideas to improve the program, such as interzonal crediting, allowing on-site solar customers to also draw from a Community Solar farm, developing an automated subscription process with the utility, and expanding the state’s public education about this resource.
2) The solar industry is ambitious. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s nation-leading Clean Energy Standard to obtain 50% of the state’s energy supply from renewable resources by the year 2030 was repeatedly praised as exemplary climate leadership, but nearly everyone agreed 50% now seems like too low a target. Though the industry will need to quadruple its output to at least 1 gigawatt per year to achieve the “50 by 30” goal, most were confident we’d surpass that rate in the next few years—especially with continued, and enhanced, government support.
3) VDER is unpopular. Industry members and advocates across the board expressed dissatisfaction with VDER, which was introduced and implemented last year. The tariff drastically reduced compensation for most solar projects, making many unprofitable and unfinanceable. There is also lingering uncertainty that the Value Stack methodology as currently designed is providing an accurate valuation of the energy produced by distributed resources. Representatives from NY-Sun and NYSERDA acknowledged these concerns but were more hopeful that the policy would be improved in the development of VDER Phase Two.