Both houses approved legislation that has the potential to propagate the use of solar and wind power in the state.
New net metering legislation (S.3407-a/A.6270-b) was passed in the Assembly and Senate May 9 that would allow remote net-metering for nonresidential and agricultural energy consumers who produce solar, wind or other types of power from renewable energy sources. The legislation would allow those businesses and farms to generate power at a location where they don’t have the demand for it and earn credits toward nullifying their electrical bills where they do.
In other words, people who have a wind turbine on a farm could use the credits they earn to provide electricity for their barn on a nearby property, or a business that has solar panels on a warehouse in Queens could apply the credits toward a utility bill for its offices in Manhattan.
The credits could be applied as long as the energy is produced and consumed in an area – load zone – serviced by the same utility. The credits could only be transferred within a single business’ or farmer’s account, but regulations that limit the use of the credits to a single meter would be dropped.
“We had the ability for net metering, but it was limited to the same location where you were creating that energy,” said Assembly Energy Committee member Marcos Crespo, D-Bronx, who introduced the legislation. “But in the real world, we know that it is not necessarily the case where that owner is using energy at the same location where they can create it.”
The bill was introduced by Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, the chairman of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, who said, “Now there is a bigger return on your investment: Let’s say in the past you may put up some renewable energy and maybe the payback term was 10 years, this may cut that in half so you’re more inclined to do it.”
When Maziarz was asked if the bill, which passed the Senate and Assembly unanimously, would be signed by the governor, he said “I haven’t heard any opposition to it, zero opposition,” adding that many of the state’s environmental advocacy groups came out in support of the bill.
According to Matt Nelligan, the committee director for the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, the legislation would especially benefit farmers by amending the way some consumers are compensated for the credits they don’t use.
According to Nelligan, the new system would allow credits to be rolled over to the next year at their full market value. Those credits, he explained, are worth more than the checks sent out now from the utilities at the end of the year. “If you don’t roll over, you’re not getting the full retail credit into the following year, which is a much greater benefit to a farmer than the other system,” said Nelligan.
Net metering covers residential, nonresidential and agricultural producers of energy using photovoltaic, wind, biomass, fuel cells, co-generation, anaerobic digestion and microturbines. The power they generate feeds into the electric utilities’ grid and in return the producers receive credits toward their electricity costs.
Those credits can be rolled over from month to month if producers’ power usage outweighs their consumption.
The net metering program has existed in the state since 1997. Originally, only residential homes could qualify for credits using photovoltaic systems such as solar panels.
The law has been amended and the program changed multiple times over the last 14 years. The amendments have allowed for the production of more energy by a greater variety of power sources and expanded the program to nonresidential and agricultural energy consumers.
Remote net metering is another step forward, according to Carol E. Murphy, the executive director of Alliance for Clean Energy New York. She said the legislation would make it “easier for farms, for municipal government, schools, to actually use renewable energy whether it is solar or wind energy.”
“This gives them a lot more flexibility, because a lot of times where the best resources for wind and solar are may not be where they have a meter or are using a lot of energy.” said Murphy.
The Alliance for Clean Energy New York is an advocacy group that promotes the use of renewable and energy efficient technology in New York state.
“If a farmer has a good wind resource on his property up on a ridge, but where he is using the electricity is back at the dairy barn, if he puts a wind turbine up and there wasn’t already a meter there or a load there he couldn’t meter that against his total electricity use like back at the dairy barn where he is using the electricity, so that became a big problem,” said Murphy, giving an example of how the existing law is limiting.
In terms of the geographical boundaries for producing energy that qualifies for credits, load zones are the only geographical restriction. A load zone is an area in which the price for power is the same; the sizes of load zones vary but are typically fairly large. The five boroughs of New York are considered a single load zone.
According to Murphy, the bill could increase the amount of renewable energy in the state.
“This legislation allows for more renewable energy to be utilized because it doesn’t matter how many meters they have as long as it is the same owner, same utility, same utility account. They can take that energy they are producing like on a nice sunny day and basically put it into their utility account and that’s like money in the bank,” said Murphy.
As of last Thursday, the bill had yet to be delivered to the governor’s office, and attempts to determine if Gov. Andrew Cuomo can be expected to sign it into law proved unsuccessful.
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