Deal offers businesses power; Law would allow firms to generate own electricity and sell it back to the grid
Gov. David Paterson and the Legislature have reached a deal that would greatly expand the ability of businesses to generate electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind energy.
They’ve agreed to expand the state’s so-called “net metering” law that now allows homeowners to sell electricity generated from renewable sources back to the utility.
As lieutenant governor, Paterson chaired the state’s Renewable Energy Task Force. In that group’s first report, published in February, it recommended that the Legislature include businesses and larger projects currently prohibited.
In a statement, Paterson said that expanding net-metering in the state would help reduce the state’s dependence on fossil fuels and add jobs in the renewable energy sector as more solar panels and wind turbines are installed.
The legislation also covers farm waste generation technology. Patrick Curran, executive director of The Energy Association of New York State, the Albany-based trade group that represents electric utilities, says his organization spent a considerable amount of time working on the issue because net-metering on a commercial scale can have huge implications for average utility customers.
That’s because when the utility pays a customer for renewable energy in a net-metering program, it not only pays them the actual price of the power, but it also pays the retail cost, which includes delivery charges and government fees included in the typical electric bill.
But Curran notes that the utility has the right to recover those added costs from all of its customers through its rates.
“This is a significant social issue here,” Curran said. “At the end of the day, some other customer pays them.”
Curran said that to minimize the impact on other utility customers, caps were put into place.
For instance, a business cannot install a solar system that generates more power than the maximum it could consume, and it cannot generate more than 2 megawatts. That was put into place so that companies do not get into the power generation business.
“These were really important changes,” Curran said.
Carol Murphy, executive director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York, an Albany group that promotes renewable energy use in the state, says the legislation should provide a lot of new work for solar and wind system distributors and installers.
“They’ve been waiting for this to pass,” she said.
By Larry Rulison
21 June 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding