The Public Service Commission (PSC) approved the first phase of Consolidated Edison’s Shared Solar Pilot program, which helps low-income residents, a typically underserved market, gain access to more renewable energy resources. Low-income families are often obstructed from participating directly in solar energy projects because they tend to live in multifamily buildings. Now, lottery-chosen customers enrolled in Con Edison’s Electric Low Income Affordability Program will be able to reap the benefits of the company’s own solar generation.
Under New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, utility ownership of distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar is not allowed so as to encourage market competition. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. One such exception is for projects that will enable low-income residential customers to benefit from DERs if no such market is available to them. The PSC recognizes that this is what the Shared Solar Pilot program seeks to accomplish and therefore has found that, in this particular case, utility ownership of DERs is warranted.
PSC’s approval of the Shared Solar Pilot program grants Con Edison the ability to install 3 megawatts of solar generation on its property. This will provide renewable energy access for anywhere from 800 to 1,600 of Con Edison’s low-income consumers. The company also believes that the Pilot program will save its low income customers an average $5 per month from the solar energy sold back to the electric grid. If this initial phase succeeds, the PSC will allow Con Edison to procure an additional 8 MW of solar and reach up to 6,000 low-income participants. Although the primary focus of this program will be solar generation, the company is willing to consider other renewable energy sources as well, such as wind power.
Con Edison anticipates that aside from the Pilot program’s obvious environmental benefits, there will also be secondary benefits, including increased renewable energy awareness, promotion of more participation in energy efficiency programs, as well as a foundation for the design of future renewable energy programs.
New York State cannot consider itself a leader in the fight against climate change without providing its low-income residences access to renewable energy resources. The Shared Solar Pilot program is an important step towards ensuring the state’s clean energy future.