Local Officials To PSC: Slow Down On Net Metering Replacement For Future Projects

Jan 17, 2017

Local elected officials in Ulster County and a citizens group are among those calling on the New York state Public Service Commission to retain the net metering compensation model for future community renewable projects. They held a press conference Tuesday in Kingston saying net metering is important to their business models.

Citizens for Local Power President Jen Metzger says a proposal under consideration by the New York state Public Service Commission effectively would end the current system of net-metering credits for new, local projects. The replacement, says Metzger, would be monetary compensation based on actual value of the project to the grid, value that could fluctuate hourly.  

“We don’t want to be discouraging renewable development and we are concerned that this new valuation mechanism is going to make the prices, the value of that power that’s generated uncertain, unpredictable,” Metzger says. “It’s not going to provide the certainty and predictability you need to finance those projects. And customers are going to be more worried about even pursuing those projects because they’re not going to really know what they’re going to get from it over the long term.”

She worries the new model will undervalue the benefits of renewable projects in local communities. Metzger, a Rosendale town councilwoman, is asking the PSC at least to maintain net-metering for the next two years and allow projects to opt-in to the new compensation regime if they choose, to allow for market adjustment.

“We’re saying, look, slow down. There’s no reason to end net metering for these sorts of projects right now,” Metzger says. “And the kinds of projects that would be immediately affected are community renewable projects, which are the only way for most New Yorkers to access the benefits of renewable energy ownership.”

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble says he’s concerned about the viability of long-term municipal projects without net metering.

“Net metering is really important to be able to make sure that we can move our future renewable energy projects forward,” Noble says. “And so one of the things for us that’s really concerning about this proposal is that we don’t know yet what the long-term effects will be on our municipality when we’re trying to do remote net metering.  It seems as though they’re trying to change the rules that will make it not as cost effective for municipalities to be able to work in developing these long-term deals.

All existing projects, though, would be grandfathered in and continue to receive net-metering credits for 20 years. This discussion has been ongoing and stems from the PSC ‘s invitation in December 2015 for ideas and comments on valuing what are called distributed energy resources —  predominantly renewable energy resources.

In a statement, a PSC spokesman says, “For over a year, New York has been studying a number of improvements to its current system of net metering – the valuing and rewarding of solar power and other distributed energy resources to customers. Work continues in the open proceeding with public input on how New York can increase its clean-energy resources while making the entire system fairer for all ratepayers.”

Azriel Alleyne is president of Kingston-based Freedom Solar Alliances. He’s a 9-11 first responder and describes his business.

“My goal with this program and this project that I started was to take the energy that is given to us freely from the sun to create electricity to sell to market,” Alleyne says. “That energy will have a revenue stream that comes in and we would be able to give it to 9-11 families and be able to help them with their medical bills that are not covered by the federal programs.

He says a change in the net metering model will hamper his business by reducing the revenue from the electricity sold.

“And so by changing it and devaluating it it’s like a feed in tariff,  and with that tariff it reduces the amount of funds that I can give to 9-11 families and their children,” says Alleyne.

Metzger says a number of towns in Ulster County have plans to develop, or interest in, developing solar projects on their former landfills, and the new policy could impact these projects. The Town of New Paltz is an example.