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Expanded 'solar-for-all' program approved for National Grid's low-income customers


Thu, Jan 20th 2022 08:20 pm

Action designed to help disadvantaged communities benefit from clean energy

√ 160,000 National Grid low-income customers to receive direct financial benefits

The New York State Public Service Commission on Thursday approved the first phase of a program where low-income electric customers of National Grid currently enrolled in the company’s energy affordability program (EAP) will be automatically enrolled in a new expanded solar-for-all program (E-SFA), which, when fully implemented, will save these customers an estimated $5 a month on their utility bills.

“The expanded solar-for-all program is a reasonable and appropriate mechanism for providing community solar bill credits to low-income customers in National Grid’s service territory, who have not had adequate opportunities to participate in clean energy,” PSC Chair Rory M. Christian said. “The purpose of this program is to improve the equitable distribution of solar benefits to disadvantaged communities, and that is exactly what will be accomplished with our decision.”

Enacted in 2019, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) expanded several statewide clean energy and climate goals, including that New York state develop 6 GW of distributed solar projects by 2025, and that 70% of New York's electricity come from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, by 2030. PSC said, “The inclusion of low-to-moderate income (LMI) customers and disadvantaged and environmental justice communities in New York state’s clean energy programs is crucial to the programs’ success and fairness, considering the CLCPA includes a requirement that disadvantaged communities receive at least 35% of the benefits of clean energy programs.”

In furtherance of the CLCPA’s solar and clean energy mandates, in 2020, the PSC authorized $573 million in additional funding to drive distributed solar development in New York. As part of that funding, the PSC authorized $200 million of the incentives to directly benefit low-income and moderate-income customers, affordable housing, and environmental justice and disadvantaged communities; and it encouraged NYSERDA to collaborate with one or more utilities to propose a program for increasing utility enrollment of low-income customers in distributed solar.

On April 23, 2021, NYSERDA and National Grid filed a joint petition for approval of an E-SFA program for providing community solar to low-income customers. The joint petition requested the PSC approve an E-SFA program under which National Grid would aggregate bill credits generated by participating community distributed generation (CDG) projects, and distribute them evenly among EAP customers automatically enrolled into the program.

In the 2020 NY-Sun expansion order, the PSC stated distributed solar resources are a vital component of New York’s clean energy system, and the NY-Sun program has been an effective means of driving distributed solar deployment toward achieving the state’s clean energy goals. At the same time, NY-Sun has historically had only limited success in reaching LMI customers.

PSC noted, “While CDG has provided the opportunity for any customer to be served by solar (including those without access to rooftop solar), LMI participation in CDG remains limited. Less than 6% of the company’s residential customers enrolled in community solar are EAP customers. Today’s decision is designed to further spur LMI participation in the solar program, and it leverages some of the previously authorized funds to be used to ensure sufficient CDG project participation in the Expanded Solar-For-All program, toward providing bill credit savings for participating low-income customers.

“National Grid has nearly 160,000 customers participating in its EAP, and all of them will receive benefits from this new program. Customers can opt out of the new solar program, if they so choose.”

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