New York Public Service Commission Issues Two Significant Community Solar Orders

On September 15, the New York Public Service Commission (“Commission”) issued orders modifying the Expanded Solar for All (“E-SFA”) program and implementing several billing measures to address pervasive CDG billing delays by utilities.

In its Order Modifying Expanded Solar for All Program, the Commission granted a request by the Coalition for Community Solar Access to allow E-SFA participants to simultaneously subscribe to a community distributed generation (“CDG”), remote crediting or remote net metered project.  E-SFA is a recently-approved program under which the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (“NYSERDA”) solicits eligible solar projects to participate and generate bill credits. National Grid then allocates those credits to reduce the utility bills of its low-income customers who are automatically enrolled in the program on an opt-out basis. Although customers are not allowed to subscribe to multiple CDG projects, the Commission distinguished E-SFA, noting that unlike CDG, bill credits generated by E-SFA projects were pooled by National Grid and allocated to customers on a non-project-specific basis.  Allowing such dual participation, according to the Commission, also would address concerns that E-SFA would directly compete with CDG projects using the Inclusive Community Solar Adder for the same low-income customers. The result is that low-income customers in National Grid now will be able to stack their utility bill reductions through both the E-SFA and CDG programs.

Second, in its Order Establishing Process Regarding Community Distributed Generation Billing, the Commission established a process to address pervasive utility CDG billing deficiencies, including delayed bills and customers not receiving appropriate credit amounts.  The Commission ordered an initial stakeholder conference to establish CDG billing performance metrics, and directed stakeholders to propose a negative revenue adjustment tied to such metrics. Concerned with the utilities’ delay in achieving automated billing generally, the Commission further directed utilities to file implementation plans that would identify billing system constraints preventing full CDG billing automation, changes needed to address these constraints and a timeline for effectuating such changes.

Taken together, these orders represent an ongoing effort by the Commission to improve the functioning of New York’s nation-leading CDG program, and harmonize it with other state initiatives, all while centering the experience of low-income customers.

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