New York Governor Cuomo Delivers a Sunny 2015 State of the State

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York has quickly become one of our nation’s top 10 solar markets. The state’s growing solar industry employs 5,000 New Yorkers up and down the state, ranking it fifth in the nation for solar jobs. Meanwhile, the landmark NY-Sun Initiative and Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) regulatory process are transforming the energy landscape. New York is already at the forefront of our nation’s clean energy transition, and the solar initiatives included in today’s State of the State address show that Governor Cuomo intends to stay there by further expanding participation in that growing solar economy.

Foremost among those new initiatives is fully funding the Clean Energy Fund. The Governor committed $5 billion over 10 years to this fund, which will support the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) ambitious clean energy market development programs, including full capitalization of the NY-Sun Initiative program and the NY Green Bank. With this funding, the state can pay particular attention to expanding opportunities for under-served communities, including low- to moderate-income families, to access clean energy.

The Governor also noted his support for establishing a new shared renewable energy program in the Empire State. New York may rank among the nation’s solar leaders, yet a majority of the state’s energy consumers — including renters, families and businesses in multi-unit buildings, and homeowners with shaded roofs — are unable to invest in their own local solar energy systems. A shared renewable energy program would overcome that barrier to solar adoption by allowing energy customers to subscribe to a renewable energy project elsewhere in their community and receive a utility bill credit for their portion of the electricity produced.

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) recently announced plans to engage in a consultative process to assess New York’s shared renewable energy potential and program design. Vote Solar strongly supports quick action to establish a shared renewable energy program, as does a diverse and growing group of organizations representing social justice, business, and environmental interests

Aaron Bartley, Executive Director of the community organization People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) Buffalo, is one of those supporters. He noted that “solar is delivering tremendous health, environmental and economic benefits to New York, but the traditional panels-on-your-roof approach simply doesn’t work for most of our energy consumers. Families and businesses who rent and plenty of others are left in the dark. We need state leaders to act quickly so that solar can shine for all.” 

The Governor’s proposed budget, released the same day as the State of the State, additionally called for a sales tax exemption on solar power purchase agreements. This tax exemption will help make solar more affordable for the many New Yorkers who go solar through third-party financing options. This is a critical addition to the state’s net metering program, one of the most important state policies for enabling homes, schools and businesses to go solar. The PSC recently expanded New York’s net metering program to allow more solar customers to receive fair credit on their utility bills for the valuable clean power they put back on the grid. 

It’s a powerful agenda for solar. Together, these initiatives support the goals of the NY-Sun and REV. Vote Solar shares the Governor’s vision of a modern energy system that prioritizes local clean energy sources and gives all New Yorkers the opportunity to participate in and benefit from our growing solar economy. We look forward to working with the Administration, state agencies, policymakers and stakeholders to build that stronger, solar-powered New York. 

If you’re interested in learning more about New York’s clean energy initiatives, join us for a free webinar on January 28th, 2015, featuring Richard Kauffman, Governor Cuomo’s Chairman of Energy and Finance. Click here to register.

Lead image: Pisa photography via Shutterstock

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Sean manages Vote Solar campaigns in the Northeast. Prior to joining Vote Solar he was the Legislative Director at Fair Share, an economic justice non-profit, and Clean Energy Advocate at Environment America, an environmental group

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