Author Archives: EnergySage

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

NY-REV-Future-of-Energy
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’.

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.

Utilities can no longer own small-scale solar energy in New York State. What does it mean for you?

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The New York Public Services Commission (PSC) has introduced measures to ensure that distributed energy technologies like rooftop solar panels remain affordable for all New Yorkers. As part of the state’s forward-thinking Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative, state utilities will be barred from owning distributed generation equipment (such as your solar panel system). According to Governor Andrew Cuomo, the new rules will empower state residents to take control of their electricity usage – and reduce their power bills.

The key focus of the REV program is to bring New York’s electricity system into the modern era by improving network efficiency and introducing more renewable energy sources. As Governor Cuomo points out in the announcement of the new rule last month, New York’s approach to electricity infrastructure has undergone little change since the first grid was introduced in lower Manhattan back in 1884. “This state is in need of a modern and efficient energy system, and we are proud to take the steps to build a sustainable way to deliver energy to every home in New York,” he said.

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Are microinverters and power optimizers the future of residential solar power?

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If you’ve been shopping around for a solar panel system, you may have heard of microinverters (from companies like Enphase and SolarBridge) and power optimizers (from companies like Tigo and SolarEdge). These devices – collectively referred to here as Module-level Power Electronics (MLPE) – are quickly gaining popularity in the US as an alternative to conventional string inverters.

In this article we take a look at this emerging trend and examine whether these technologies are the best option for all homes.

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New York’s fracking ban: Gas on the way out, solar in for Empire State’s energy future?

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At the end of last year, governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New York State will put a stop to high volume hydraulic fracking (HVHF, also known as ‘fracking’) within its borders – making it the second state (Vermont being the first) to ban the controversial practice. Environmentalists have applauded the decision, and a recent Quinnipiac University poll found that over half of New Yorkers approve as well.

Here we look at three questions about New York’s decision to put fracking activities on hold:

  1. Why was fracking banned in New York state?
  2. How will the ban affect electricity prices in New York?
  3. How does the fracking ban fit into the state’s longer-term goal of fostering greater uptake of renewable energy technologies like rooftop solar panels?

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New NREL study highlights benefits of solar loans vs solar leases & PPAs

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Solar loans are gaining popularity as a solar financing option across the country. Because of the superior savings and similar benefits that solar loans promise, some industry analysts now predict that they will overtake third party-owned (TPO) solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) as the dominant option for solar financing in the USA within a few years.

A new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examines this phenomenon and sheds more light on the possible advantages of financing your solar system with a loan as opposed to TPO solar lease / PPA.

The most important conclusion of the report is this: While going solar with either of these options is likely save you money on your electricity bills, financing your system with a solar loan could save you up to 30% more than if you go solar with a solar lease or PPA. Continue reading

Will joining a community solar garden save you money – or foster ‘community’?

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Don’t have a roof of your own to put solar panels on? So-called community solar gardens have begun to appear in many states across the USA, promising to make it easy to go solar even if you don’t have anywhere to put your panels. ‘Community solar’ has created quite a buzz as the number of solar garden projects has grown.

But we here at EnergySage argue that participating in a solar garden only makes sense if you’re benefitting in some way: whether that be saving money on your power bill, or possibly just knowing that you’ve helped your community take a step towards energy independence.

Community solar gardens: How to go solar without a roof

EnergySage has published a number of articles on the topic of community solar power. You access them with the links below:

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Is Leasing Solar Panels a Good Idea? Sort Facts from Marketing

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third party solar panel leasing with energysage

Considering solar leasing over buying a system outright is a big decision and should not be impacted by marketing copy. Learn the facts and make the decision that works for you financially

Third party solar leases have proven themselves incredibly popular in recent years, playing a key role in propelling rooftop solar panels into the mainstream. Depending on the state, anywhere from 50%-90% of rooftop solar installations were financed by solar leasing or PPA at the beginning of 2014, according to the SEIA. You could say that solar leases have revolutionized the US solar industry.

But are solar leases always a good idea? These financial mechanisms are still relatively new and you, as a smart solar shopper, should approach them with a healthy dose of caution and a discriminating eye. This point has been highlighted in the recent efforts of a number of Congresspeople to shine a brighter light on how solar leasing is pitched to consumers – both for the sake of those in the market for a system as well as for the solar industry itself. Continue reading

Pope Francis puts climate change on the agenda for the Church – and the world

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The Green Pope and His Climate Change Discourse

It’s not news that Pope Francis has green leanings. Addressing a crowd in Rome earlier this year, he head of the Catholic Church spoke bluntly about the dangers posed by human-caused climate change. “If we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us,” he said, going on to name environmental stewardship as a key responsibility of the Church and its faithful.

The Pope has had the environment on the agenda since his inauguration in 2013. But even back when Francis was still Cardinal Bergoglio, the Vatican was already supporting cleaner energy. The most obvious example of this was the installation of a 100 megawatt rooftop solar array to meet the bulk of the micro-state’s energy needs. This act, along with speeches he made, earned then-Pope Benedict the nickname ‘The Green Pope’. Continue reading