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NYS renewable energy advocates want an easier to understand solar valuation policy

Active Solar

Renewable energy supporters from across the state spoke out Tuesday asking Governor Cuomo to give solar projects back the option net metering.

Under net metering, renewable energy users could store excess power in the electric grid. In exchange, you can pull from the grid when your system is under-producing like during nighttime.

Some solar developers estimate there has been a cancellation of more than $800 million worth of community solar projects statewide since the Value of Distributed Energy Resources Policy (VDER) was implemented in 2017.

Its complicated compensation mechanism has kept some community solar projects from developing. Sierra Club Energy Committee Atlantic Chapter Chair Robert Ciesielski said the current VDER policy will keep New York from reaching Governor Cuomo’s mandate to have 50% of the state’s energy come from renewable energy sources by 2030.

“If a home owner is unable to determine how much reimbursement for his panels, a lot of times they will back away from the deal,” he said. “It’s causing a lot of problems for the growth of the industry at this time.”

Ciesielski said the problem with VDER is the amount paid depends on a number of factors.

“Where you are in the state, what the population is, what the demand for electricity is in that area, how much the utilities need the power… it’s almost impossible for a solar company to go up and say automatically how much a person’s gonna get,” Ciesielski said.

Net metering was the state’s previous policy for valuing solar power.

There was legislation proposed last year for a three year moratorium on VDER due to its complicated compensation mechanism.

“They had 10,000 homes with solar on Long Island,” he said. “Their solar industry was going crazy. Then all of a sudden, this really stopped a lot of the growth of that industry because no customer knew how much they were going to be reimbursed if they installed panels.”

Governor Cuomo’s administration has said the VDER policy needs to improve and has suggested a few changes. Ciesielski said what has been put forth doesn’t go far enough to fix the problem. He said VDER is too complicated.

“We are at least asking for a moratorium on the VDER programing until… to re-imposition of the net metering program, which was a simple formula by which people were reimbursed across the state," he said, "until the VDER program is ironed out, becomes clear and manageable and understandable for home owners and people who want to have solar installed.”

Nick Lippa leads our Arts & Culture Coverage, and is also the lead reporter for the station's Mental Health Initiative, profiling the struggles and triumphs of those who battle mental health issues and the related stigma that can come from it.