New York’s Third Industrial Revolution: State puts focus on distributed energy with Reforming the Energy Vision initiative

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New York is aiming to fundamentally reshape the way electricity is generated, distributed and marketed in the state. Under Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state government has set out to answer the pressing question of how to bring the state’s electricity system into the 21st century. The Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative is a decision-making process whose proceedings will ultimately result in the overhaul the state’s retail electricity markets – while also finding ways to better integrate renewables and energy efficiency into the system

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Image via ILSR

The New York Public Services Commission (PSC) determined that the REV program was needed in order to address several developing issues with the state’s electricity system. The issues REV aims to address can be divided into 3 categories:

1. New York’s electricity system is inefficient and in dire need of updating

New Yorkers currently have some of the highest retail electricity prices in the country, and a big part of what they pay for is maintenance of aging infrastructure. The electricity system is expensive to maintain and only operates at about 54% of its capacity most of the year – running at 100% capacity only a few days a year when the weather is hot and thousands of AC units are pumping simultaneously. If nothing changes, ratepayers in the state will collectively fork over another $30 billion over the next 10 years just to keep the status quo. REV will help New York to build something better – ‘the grid of the future’.





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2. Current energy efficiency and renewable energy programs are still ad hoc solutions

At the moment, New York’s programs which support energy efficiency and renewable energy sources (like rooftop solar panels) add increase the bills of all electricity ratepayers (although only slightly). This is because they have been tacked on to the existing system instead of integrated into it. While the state’s programs (as well as those of local utilities) have done a lot to promote the uptake of solar power and energy efficiency, the PSC feels that renewables could be better incorporated into the system to maximize their natural advantages in order to save money for everyone.

3. Innovation and competition do not thrive in the current system

Regulations around electricity in New York State do not encourage utilities (the distribution companies) to do the things that would optimize value for consumers. These things include encouraging efficient use of electricity, integrating distributed energy resource, and allowing ‘third party applications’ (such as energy usage monitoring software) on the network.

How will REV seek address these issues?

The REV program is a complete rethinking of New York’s approach to generating, delivering and consuming electricity. At the core of the REV initiative are three things: renewables, distributed energy and market reform. The biggest question REV seeks to address is how to combine these things to deliver greater value to electricity consumers.

According to the PSC’s website:

This initiative will lead to regulatory changes that promote more efficient use of energy, deeper penetration of renewable energy resources such as wind and solar, wider deployment of “distributed” energy resources, such as micro grids, on-site power supplies, and storage. It will also promote greater use of advanced energy management products to enhance demand elasticity and efficiencies. These changes, in turn, will empower customers by allowing them more choice in how they manage and consume electric energy.

The PSC is soliciting public input on REV: Have your say about the future of New York’s electricity system

The opportunities and challenges presented by the REV process are enormous, and there are countless stakeholder who would like to have their say. Thankfully, REV’s approach is a collaborative one, and the PSC is welcoming input from people like you.

The current schedule for these public hearings can be found on the website of the Department of Public Services. However, you do not need to be present at any of these to provide input: you may also place submissions by email (secretary@dps.ny.gov), via phone (1-800-335-2120) or through snail mail (address below). Written submissions should reference “Case 14-M-0101 Reforming the Energy Vision”.

Hon. Kathleen H. Burgess, Secretary, Public Service Commission, Three Empire State Plaza, Albany, New York 12223-1350

As New York advocacy group Alliance for a Green Economy (AGREE New York), a collection of non-governmental groups, has pointed out, the fact that the PSC is inviting comment means that a range of voices needs to be heard. The voices of those with vested interests will almost certainly be the loudest, as they have the most to lose if reforms are brought in.

The group has prepared an informative briefing on the REV program, as well as a set of talking points surrounding what they see as the main principles that should be adhered to throughout the process.

What will the role of solar energy be after REV?

systems, as a type of distributed energy, will play a key role in the future of New York’s electricity infrastructure. Even before the introduction of REV, the state’s solar programs were amalgamated under the umbrella of the New York Sun program, whose goal is “stimulating the marketplace, so that costs associated with installing solar electric systems for residents and businesses are reduced”.

The long-term goal of the program is to foster a self-sustaining market for solar energy in the state that doesn’t rely heavily on government grants or other incentives to make solar cost-effective. Currently, NY Sun is doing this by supporting solarize campaigns in cities and towns across the state, and will soon introduce a strategy for supporting community-shared solar projects as well.

IS NOW A GOOD TIME TO GO SOLAR IN NEW YORK?

Exactly how NY Sun will be integrated whatever recommendations come of the REV proceedings remains to be seen, but the fact is that now is already a good time to go solar in New York State. Compare offerings on the market in the state now by shopping on EnergySage’s Solar Marketplace.

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