New York State plans for solar on 150,000 homes and businesses by 2020

California has long been the standard-bearer for clean energy in the United States, with ambitious renewable energy mandates backed by regulatory action to reform not only the way that utilities procure power, but how they approach resources on the customer side of the meter.

But New York may be giving California a run for its money as the most progressive state for policy to enable a transformation of the electric grid. As the latest, on Thursday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a series of new goals which deepen the state’s embrace of clean energy as a means for greenhouse gas reduction.

Topping the list, Governor Cuomo set a target for the state to install solar arrays on 150,000 additional homes and businesses by 2020, a five-fold expansion on the 30,000 arrays that the state has supported since 2013.

As a means to reach this goal, the governor’s office mentioned the new "Shared Renewables" virtual net metering program. Under the program, New York residents can subscribe to receive the benefits of a PV array up to 2 MW-AC located on a sponsor’s property, through net metering.

This includes multi-unit master metered buildings, which will allow tenants to share in the benefits of solar PV.

EQ Director of Research Justin Barnes says that the NY-SUN MW Block incentive program for large-scale solar will also be key in meeting this goal. The program provides geographically differentiated performance-based incentives to systems up to 2 MW.

“It’s going to be as critical to a community renewables project as it is to any other large-scale industrial project,” states Barnes. He also says that while there were few applications for the program after it was rolled out, that interest is increasing.

In addition to the 150,000 new PV installations, Governor Cuomo announced that the State University of New York (SUNY) system will install renewable energy at each of its 64 campuses by 2020. This builds on a previous SUNY commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 30% by 2020.

A third pledge was to engage the states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to explore the possibility of linking this market with carbon markets in Quebec, California and Ontario.

These three were announced concurrent with the signing of the Under 2 MOU, an agreement between states, provinces and cities globally to play their part in keeping the earth’s average temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius by 2100, versus pre-industrial levels.

New York already has one of the most aggressive targets in the nation for greenhouse gas reduction, with plans to reduce emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 and 80% by 2050.

As a key means to meet this target, New York is currently engaged in a process to rethink the structure of its electricity system, including the role of utilities. Reforming the Energy Vision may be the most advanced process of restructuring in the nation, and is specifically focused on distributed energy resources and providing tools and knowledge to allow customers to manage their resources under a more dynamic system.