New York solar plan needs changes to support energy justice, advocates say


Vote Solar, the New York Energy Democracy Alliance, and Alliance for a Green Economy filed comments with the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) on the state’s Distributed Solar Roadmap that was released in December 2021. The roadmap offers a strategy for expanding the state’s NY-Sun initiative into one of the largest solar programs in the nation, expected to spur approximately $4.4 billion in private investment and create 6,000 additional solar jobs across the state. These groups support aspects of the plan, but are asking the PSC to do more for New York’s disadvantaged communities.

Currently New York’s landmark climate law, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) mandates that at a minimum 35 to 40% of the overall benefits of clean energy investments be directed to residents of disadvantaged communities. The commenters specifically call for additional funding for community-owned solar projects and safeguards to ensure that New York’s most historically underinvested communities are reaping the benefits of the clean energy transition.

While residents of ‘disadvantaged’ communities would certainly welcome the 10 percent discount on their utility bill offered in NYSERDA’s Roadmap, that hardly does justice to the CLCPA’s promise of 35-40 percent of the overall benefits of clean energy investments. Nor does it do justice for communities that have long borne the brunt of air pollution and the impacts of climate change resulting from fossil fuel power plants and other environmental hazards that have been forced upon their communities over the years, said Jasmine Graham, Energy Justice Policy Manager at WE ACT for Environmental Justice.

The changes that the three groups are asking for include:

  • Roadmap must include additional measures to satisfy the CLCPA mandate for 35% to 40% of program benefits going to DAC members
  • NYSERDA should allocate additional funding to support community-owned projects to meet the CLCPA goals of 35 to 40% of investment benefitting DACs
  • The PSC Should Clarify and Improve Incentives Serving LMI residents, Affordable Housing, and residents of DACs
  • NYSERDA should fund the participation of M/WBEs and workers of color
  • NYSERDA should increase MWs allocated to Con Edison territory to at least 568MW
  • The PSC should quickly initiate the next phase of determining solar compensation

“Rooftop and community solar provide huge opportunities for individuals and communities to directly benefit from the renewable energy transition, but only if the State ensures that the energy savings, pollution reductions, jobs, and ownership opportunities are fairly shared,” said Jessica Azulay, Executive Director of Alliance for a Green Economy.

In their comments the groups pointed out that it is the responsibility of NYSERDA to “ensure social equity as well as expediency in the execution of CLCPA”, and as such Vote Solar and AGREE look forward to working with the PSC and NYSERDA to “ensure that we deliver on the co-equal imperatives of speed, scale and justice reaching in our climate targets”. The roadmap will be considered for approval by New York’s Public Service Commission.

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