NY Wants to Lead the Renewable Energy Revolution

NEW YORK (Washington Post) -

Brooklyn may soon offer more than craft beers, artisanal cheese and organic produce: It’ll brag of being powered by locally sourced electricity, from its own solar panels or maybe from batteries down the street.

New York state officials say small-scale power production is the wave of the future. The local utility will still run wires to your house, but your power supply will be a mix of what you produce from rooftop solar and what you buy from the electrical grid.

These new technologies, including rooftop solar, are pushing New York regulators to come up with new rules for buying and selling electricity and maintaining the electrical grid. To make it happen, the state Public Service Commission has started a proceeding called Reforming the Energy Vision — REV for short. REV aims to make it easy for utilities, homeowners and businesses to use the new technology.

The rules are expected to be mostly in place early next year. After that, “we foresee that the pace of change can be fairly rapid,” said Audrey Zibelman, the commission’s chair.

Other states are dealing with the same issues, but not as comprehensively. New York is among a number of states requiring net metering, which gives homeowners credit for solar power they put into the grid.

As renewable technology grows cheaper and more popular, it could outpace the ability of regulators and utilities to deal with it. In Hawaii, solar power is already cheaper than power sold by the local utilities. Hawaiian officials were unprepared last year when residents began producing more electricity than the power grid could absorb, forcing utility companies to curb new solar installations.

New York’s high power prices could also lead to a solar boom. In April, New York residents paid an average 17.77 cents for a kilowatt hour of electricity. That was 40.6 percent more than the national average, federal data shows.

Prices are even higher in the New York City area. Con Edison, the city’s power company, for years has charged the highest per-kilowatt-hour prices of any big-city utility. Solar production in Con Ed’s territory has more than doubled in the last 18 months.

Under the rules being considered, Con Ed could be called upon to provide new services, such as microgrids, which will let homes and businesses share the power they produce.