Regulator funds US279m for renewable energy projects

By 2015, the Public Service Commission (PSC) wants renewable energy to provide 30% of projected electricity consumption and to ensure that New York remains a leader in the development of renewable energy resources. The funding is available for companies or homeowners to install solar panels, wind turbines, fuel cells and other renewable energy devices.

“The development of renewable energy projects strengthens New York’s emerging clean energy economy, and provides opportunities for job creation at all levels of the renewable resources supply chain,” explains Garry Brown of the PSC. “In these difficult economic times, we are keeping our focus on the long-term need to support the investment in renewable energy.”

“The development and expansion of our critically important renewable energy resources will allow us to take greater control of our energy future,” he adds.

Renewable Portfolio Standard involves two programmes

The RPS is funded by ratepayers and involves two renewable energy programmes administered by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). Most of the electricity is obtained through competitive procurements for large-scale renewable resources, known as the main tier. The customer-sited tier promotes smaller, self-generation facilities located at residences and businesses.

The customer-sited tier encourages emerging renewable energy technologies to play a role in diversifying the state's energy mix, improve the environment, reduce demand during peak load times, and stimulate economic development opportunities. Benefits include customer participation, technological innovation and commercialisation, economic development, fuel diversity, environmental mitigation and strategic load reduction.

Technologies eligible in the customer-sited tier include solar PV, small wind, anaerobic digesters and fuel cells, and the PCS has added solar thermal hot water to the list. Of the funding, US$144m goes to solar photovoltaic, US$71m to anaerobic digesters, US$22m to fuel cells, US$18m for  small wind and US$25m for solar thermal.

Last year, the PSC expanded the goal to increase the proportion of renewable energy to 30% by 2015 and, as part of that decision, it authorised US$200m in main tier spending.

Spending on solar PV to be US$626m alone

The decision to increase funding for renewable energy projects will spur significant private sector renewable energy investments, including an estimated US$626m on customer-sited solar PV projects alone, the PSC predicts. In total, new customer-sited projects will generate 466,000 MWh over the five-year period, enough electricity to supply 72,000 homes.

In addition to customer-sited tier, funds for large-scale projects will be directed at facilities greater than 50 kW which will be cost-effective and located where distributed generation can do the most good. The size complements the solar PV installations that are already supported under the customer-sited tier, which must be less than 50 kW and provides economies of scale.

Programme to include evaluation on various renewable energies

The PSC decision includes an evaluation component for customer-sited projects to assess the contribution of the technology toward the RPS goal. This will include a market evaluation for each technology as well as an impact evaluation to assess the accuracy of estimated output based on actual production.

The evaluations will inform the PSC on the overall success and cost-effectiveness of the programme relative to other clean energy options, as part of its 2013 review.

The PSC also approved US$150 m for large-scale solar photovoltaic, anaerobic digester and fuel cell projects in the lower Hudson Valley and the New York City metropolitan area.

The PSC regulates the state's electric, gas, steam, telecommunications and water utilities.