Community Solar spurns New York’s VDER, seeks a return to net metering

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At pv magazine, most of the recent headlines from New York are high flying – 20 large solar power projects for 2022, 100%+ solar growth projected for 2018, predictions of declining electricity load due to efficiency and solar, and expansions of the commercial and industrial incentive packages.

However, the state’s Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER), a new methodology for determining compensation from solar projects, has not gotten positive feedback in the solar power industry – nor it seems from those with capital investing in projects. Chris Neidl, Director of Business Development for Brooklyn SolarWorks, said:

VDER has had a devastating effect on solar development, with investment down 73% in the first quarter of 2018 versus 2017 based on total project costs of Solar Electric Programs reported by NYSERDA.

Now it seems the politicians agree. The New York Assembly has passed A.10474, which will keep net metering in effect for customers subscribing to community solar installations through December 31, 2021. A companion bill, S.8273, is currently sitting in the Senate Rules Committee. If the bill were to pass the Senate, it would then more to the Governor’s desk.

The main pushback on VDER was that many said it did not properly value solar power, and that the compensation methods being suggested wouldn’t drive the investment in the industry. A filing by SEIA noted that Upstate electric utilities had proposed values as low as 1.5¢/kWh as the value of solar power.

In addition to extending net metering for three years, the bill also directs the state’s Public Service Commission to create a new VDER taking into account a broad range of values. The paragraph reads:

    22  ...which shall fully and accurately account for  the  energy  and  capacity
    23  value  of  the electricity generated, as well as for the long-term value
    24  of public benefits provided by such resources, including but not limited
    25  to, grid security and resilience, climate security, reduced emissions of
    26  greenhouse gases and other air and water pollutants, and  reduced  expo-
    27  sure  to  fuel  price  volatility, environmental justice attributes, and
    28  avoided societal and ratepayer costs from the reduction of energy  bills
    29  for low-income customers.

New York regulators approved VDER last September. The valuation was scheduled to apply to commercial and community solar projects, with new  residential solar installed prior to 2021 remaining under net metering.