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PSC approves doubling solar incentive funds  

On Thursday, the state Public Service Commission agreed to a plan for the state to fund the increase over the next two years by transferring money from another program designed to subsidize larger renewable energy projects such as wind farms. Both are funded through a charge on utility bills called the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Credit:  By Larry Rulison, www.timesunion.com 19 April 2012 ~~

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed victory on Thursday after regulators approved doubling funds for the state’s incentive program for solar electric systems at homes and businesses to $108 million annually.

The governor has made expanding the state’s solar electric market a major part of his policy agenda this year, calling it the NY-Sun Initiative. Cuomo wants to double the rate of solar installations in the state, which totaled 15 megawatts this year, and then double the rate again in 2013.

State officials believe this would add nearly 380 megawatts of solar power in the state over the next four to five years, a six-fold increase from the current level, which today provides enough power for about 6,000 homes.

On Thursday, the state Public Service Commission agreed to a plan for the state to fund the increase over the next two years by transferring money from another program designed to subsidize larger renewable energy projects such as wind farms. Both are funded through a charge on utility bills called the Renewable Portfolio Standard.

Although business and environmental advocates are happy that the increase in the solar incentive program is being funded with existing money, there has been plenty of grumbling about the long-term stainability of such a move, especially because after 2013 no clear plan for securing additional money exists.

Some are worried that it will have to come out of the pockets of customers of National Grid and other utilities. The RPS fee on a typical residential electrical bill can be several dollars a month.

In a filing with the PSC, the Business Council of New York State said that the state has the nation’s third-highest electricity prices, large part because of taxes and fees like the RPS.

“Energy is one of the major cost factors that make New York state one of the least favorable locations in which to start or locate a business,” the Business Council said in the Monday filing.

Even the solar industry, which has urged the state to do more to subsidize solar power, is skeptical of Cuomo’s plan.

“The current proposal has no clarity or certainty for the future source of program funding,” Carrie Cullen Hitt, a vice president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, wrote in a Monday filing with the PSC. “The resulting perception is that New York is not committed to a stable, sustainable solar market.”

Source:  By Larry Rulison, www.timesunion.com 19 April 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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