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All Eyes on Gov. Cuomo as Lawmakers Miss Deadline for NY Solar Bill

The New York legislative session ended this week without lawmakers enacting the long-term solar policy we worked so hard to support — but there’s still plenty of opportunity to get the job done this year.

The New York Solar Bill would have enacted a 2.2 GW, 10-year extension of the successful NY-Sun Initiative, which is driving growth in the state’s solar industry and lowering solar costs for all New Yorkers. The Senate unanimously passed its version of the bill on Earth Day, and the Assembly voted 76-16 in favor of a different version of the bill last week. Ultimately the two houses were not able to reconcile the two proposals and deliver long-term solar policy to the Governor’s desk before time ran out — so in another nail-biter finish, New Yorkers are left once again without major clean energy legislation. 

“We are extremely disappointed the legislature was unable to close the deal and deliver this landmark clean energy legislation to the Governor’s desk,” said Jackson Morris, director of strategic engagement at Pace Energy & Climate Center. “That was Plan A. Luckily, there is a Plan B.”

The Governor can take direct administrative action to implement the 10-year solar program through the PSC and NYSERDA. No need to wait for another legislative session.

New York solar leadership has long come from this corner of state government. The Governor himself launched the original two-year NY-Sun Initiative and called for its extension as part of his State of the State address. And just this month the PSC tripled New York’s net metering cap to clear the way for continued rooftop solar growth.

“We have a strong and growing local solar industry in the state, thanks largely to the leadership of our Governor, NYSERDA and the PSC. Today they have an opportunity to continue that proud tradition by solidifying a 10 year NY-Sun plan, ensuring that New Yorkers benefit from a stable and predictable long-term solar program,” said Sail Van Nostrand, president of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA).

So now once again the Cuomo administration has an opportunity to bear the torch of solar progress. And New Yorkers certainly have his back. An overwhelming majority of voters (89 percent by our last poll) support increasing the use of solar to meet the state’s power needs. We saw that play out during this legislative session with well over 10,000 New Yorkers urging legislators to pass the solar bill. Heck, even in the legislature itself support was high despite the politics: a whopping 197 out of 213 legislators from up and down the state voted for the bill.

Considering that momentum, the Governor has a clear mandate to move his bold solar vision to successful completion. At a time when the state faces the dual challenges of an economy in recovery and weak energy infrastructure exposed by Hurricane Sandy, this is a roadmap for building a stronger solar powered New York.

“Solar power is ready to help New York tackle those challenges head-on, and it can create thousands of local jobs in the process. Governor Cuomo should pick up where the legislature left off, and extend his successful NY Sun program for 10 years in order to capture the full clean energy and economic potential this industry has to offer,” said Pierre Bull, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Carrie Cullen Hitt, senior vice president for state affairs at SEIA added, “Governor Cuomo’s ambitious vision for a 10 year extension of the NY-Sun Initiative will drive the kind of investment that it takes to build a world-class solar market.”

"All of New York's current clean energy programs are in need of renewal, and a ten-year extension is crucial to ensuring continued investment in clean energy infrastructure," said Valerie Strauss, interim executive director of Alliance for Clean Energy New York. "Solar may be just one piece of the pie, but it is a piece with tremendous potential to make a significant contribution to the green economy. We urge Governor Cuomo, the PSC, and NYSERDA to support long-term commitments to solar and other clean energy technologies and see these commitments through to the finish line."

All of that is to say: we still expect 2013 to be the year of big New York solar policy. It’s just that the Governor, PSC and NYSERDA will be in the driver’s seat rather than the legislature.  We could not have come this far if it wasn’t for years of hard work from our coalition partners and the many New Yorkers who voiced their support. Onwards!

Lead image: Stage spotlight via Shutterstock

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