The proposed changes to net metering on Long Island through a tariff structure called VDER (Value of Distributed Energy Resources) have become a highly debated topic. Over the last few weeks and months, EmPower Solar’s CEO, staff, and many other solar stakeholder groups have become active on proposed changes to net energy metering (NEM) and have been working with solar stakeholders, utilities, and public officials to ensure that any changes to net metering protect solar energy customers, and help not hurt future deployment of renewable energy in our region.
Here is a brief and concise timeline of the VDER history to date.
PSEG-Long Island submitted a response to the NYS Public Service Commission’s (PSC) request for feedback on the future of net-metering.
March 9 2017
The New York State Public Service Commission adopted the first phase of its transition from NEM to VDER. The main component of this is switching for a net credit for credit system to a “Value Stack” system – which assesses the value of net energy exports to the grid based on 6 different factors including energy, capacity, environmental benefits, avoided demand reduction, locational system relief value, and for certain customers a CDG transition credit.
LIPA was not subject to NYS order.
September 8 2017
LIPA opens comment period for Utility 2.0 plan which includes VDER and other changes. Click here to review the Utility 2.0 plan.
LIPA formally introduced their own proposed changes to the current net metering program, following mostly in the footsteps of NYS with the same 6-component value stack. It proposed that Customers currently receiving NEM would not be affected by changes, and grandfathered in. In addition, residential and small commercial customers who add solar (or other DERs) by January 1, 2020 will continue to receive NEM, with minor modifications, for 20 years. Commercial 281 and 285 accounts would change starting January 2 2018.
Read the original proposal here.
EmPower felt that the bottom line is that this hurts solar customers by reducing the rate of solar compensation and making the specific rate nearly impossible to predict.
Over the past five years, New York has become one of the hottest solar energy markets in the United States. Long Island, in particular, has seen a surge in solar applications and the number of residents adding solar panels to their homes has quadrupled in less than 5 years.
EmPower Solar , a trusted Long Island based solar panel installer, recently commissioned third party research to uncover the trends in solar applications in this region. By using public data provided by the local utility PSEGLI, researchers were able to uncover some interesting findings regarding the most popular towns for solar, the best time of year to go solar, the most active companies working in the space, and more.
New York Solar energy is under attack and we need your help!
10am - H. Lee Dennison Building - 100 Veterans HWY Hauppauge, NY2pm - LIPA - 333 Earle Ovington Blvd., Ste. 403 Boardroom A Uniondale, NY
Earlier this year, changes to New York’s solar net metering laws were enacted, impacting solar policy in most utility territories except the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). Just this week, LIPA announced they are planning to adopt the same disruptive rules, for a January 1 start date - just 8 weeks away!
Key changes for commercial accounts would happen overnight and changes to residential accounts would be implemented in 2020. Any residential accounts installed before December 31 2017 would be grandfathered in for life, where anyone installed between Jan 1 2018 and December 31 2019 would be granted net metering for a period of 20 years.
SunPower by EmPower Solar will be testifying at these hearings, and encourages all interested parties to support our efforts by joining us as the Nassau and Suffolk hearings, submitting testimony, and encouraging their networks to join this fight to save solar on Long Island.
Background: Net Metering & Current Battles
Net metering allows owners of renewable energy systems (including solar, wind, and other technologies) to receive credits for excess energy produced by their system throughout the course of the year. As part of going solar, the local utility company (PSEG-LI, ConEdison, etc.) will swap out a customer’s existing electrical meter with a “net meter.” A net meter is just like a regular electrical meter, except it has the ability to track energy both ways - into a home and out to the grid. This functionality is crucial because solar production varies greatly depending on the time of day and time of year. In the middle of the summer, solar energy systems may produce far more than the home or business-owner needs at any given time. During those times, the excess energy that is produced by the system is sent back to the electrical grid and recorded on the customer’s electric bill in the form of a “credit bank.” This credit bank allows energy users to tap into the credits they’ve stored during times of lower energy production such as nighttime or winter time.
Historically, a net metering credit has been valued at the retail rate of electricity. In other words, the value of a net metering credit (or, the value of one unit of electricity sent back to the grid) is worth the same as a unit of electricity that a homeowner would otherwise purchase from the grid in the absence of an on-site solar power system. Conceptually, this makes sense, because every unit of electricity generated by a solar power system is one less unit that has to be generated by the utility company.
Net metering has been instrumental to the success of solar for the past 15 years in New York and throughout the United States. Net metering is available today in some form in 41 states ( research here ).
Net metering, both in New York State and throughout the country, has been widely regarded as a favorable policy by renewable energy providers and utility stakeholders alike, largely due to its simplicity and fairness. However, there are many known flaws in that it doesn’t always value the generation at a market price. For a long time, utilities have been concerned about net metering as the industry has grown because it is not within their control, nor does it generate a profit. There is also longstanding debate regarding the stress that net metering places on the grid, and the value of resiliency and environmental benefits. Nevertheless, utilities still have an obligation to maintain the infrastructure to keep solar customers connected and supplied, putting utilities in a challenging position.
For these reasons, net metering has been under attack in several states. Notably, Nevada rescinded net metering, only to have the decision overturned. California modified its net metering policy and launched a new program called Net Metering 2.0, which we believe is superior to the program New York has put forth.
New York’s Approach:
In many ways, New York should be applauded for its approach to the evolution of net metering. It’s a complicated problem; utilities will be crucial for electricity supply for many years to come – we must ensure their stability. However, it is imperative to value solar accurately, including the value it provides to the grid, while considering air and water quality, and climate change.
New York’s solution, VDER, is a system that creates a value stack of 5 to 6 categories that places a variable price on solar net hourly exports . While laudable, we feel this structure is highly flawed and will negatively impact solar adoption.
LIPA is not subject to the NYS Public Service Commission orders, but generally adopts some form of it shortly after statewide implementation. In July 2017, leaders of the Long Island Solar Energy Industry Association (LISEIA) published a position paper that outlines key flaws and opportunities for improvement.
LISEIA's core recommendation is to postpone adoption to a) provide for a period of observation, b) allow stakeholders to carefully review the policy design, valuation methods, soliciting thorough public comment throughout the process, and c) explore alternatives.
Key concerns include the following:
The solar industry on Long Island is currently presented with a unique and time-sensitive opportunity to influence the VDER structure in a way that is fair and reasonable to all industry stakeholders. Click here to read the letter submitted by LISEIA.
Today, New York State is one of the largest markets for solar energy in the U.S. and can continue to serve as a leader in the adoption of solar energy, energy storage, and other renewable energy technologies. Our mission is urgent and requires dramatic action and acceleration, which will not only help mitigate the consumption of fossil fuels, but deliver profound economic and societal benefits. Admittedly, the utility grid and electric business model is complex and engages many stakeholders, but we must devise a system that is fair to all stakeholders.
The solar industry in New York has worked for many years to create the vibrant market we have today. Together, we can usher in even more rapid growth and achieve our goals.
David G. Schieren, CEO SunPower by EmPower Solar
My perspective articulated above is guided from 15 years in the business, as a New York State Solar Energy Industry Association Board Member, and in concert with the Long Island Solar Energy Industry Association. Further, we have an earned reputation for fair, ethical and principled participation in the marketplace.
Several years before deciding to go solar, Anthony Palumbo was spending $1,500 a month on gas for his family’s fleet of cars. It was 2008, gas prices were high, and his Cadillac was getting 17 mpg. So, as his first step towards energy independence, he decided to buy a hybrid to cut down on fuel costs. He felt a small sense of financial liberation but was not thrilled with the performance of the vehicle, so in 2011, Palumbo bought his first electric vehicle; a Chevy Volt. He still drives it today and it gets around 64 mpg traveling around 100 miles per day, so the car has essentially paid for itself.
It’s no secret that electric vehicle owners are the perfect candidate for going solar. After seeing Palumbo’s Volt at his office building back in 2014, we connected over our common enthusiasm over electric vehicles. From there, it took only a short introduction to solar power to get him onto his home solar panel journey.
In his neighborhood, and among his circle of friends and family, he’s always been the one people call to fix their electrical problems when something goes wrong. Palumbo has a beautiful home and electrical technical knowledge, so when it came to going solar, he put a high value on aesthetics and quality workmanship. It wasn’t an easy sell, but eventually, he chose SunPower panels and us as the installer.
“My system is the nicest, cleanest job I’ve ever seen! My wife loves it too. She checks the monitoring app every day because she loves to see how much money we are saving,” states Palumbo. “I have very high standards when it comes to my home, but I inspected every detail and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Even with two electric cars, a battery backup system, and a two-story colonial house to power, Palumbo has a zero dollar electric bill each month and more often than not, actually gets a check from PSEG for excess power he generates!
“We don’t have many extended power outages in our area, but we have enough intermittent power loss events, often when we are at work or out of the house,” said Palumbo. “We had a portable generator for extended outages and tolerated the intermittent losses, but decided to get an installed backup system as the best solution to our needs.”
“The installed battery backup system provides a seamless process to continue powering the house whether anyone is there or not, keeping power to essential areas and appliances, like refrigerators and freezers, without requiring me to do a thing. It’s convenient, safe, reliable, clean, soundless, environmentally friendly and maintenance free. I don’t really think any other choice made sense.”
Since going solar, he has applied almost all of the different aspects of Electrify Your Life! He redid the roof, double insulated his house, and installed LED lights throughout the indoors – so, energy efficiency, check. A home backup power system, check. Electric vehicles, check. The only thing Palumbo has left to do is install electric home heating and cooling, which he’s already shopping around for.
The electrification of Palumbo’s life doesn’t just apply to his home, either. His new office has workplace EV chargers, and the conduit is already in place for the solar system he plans to install there. His nephew also went solar with EmPower Solar!
After hearing news about your solar installer closing down, you're probably thinking, "What happens to my system now?" Thousands of Long Island and New York City residents are in
the same boat after Level Solar closed in September and several others have closed earlier this year. Many of these homeowners are protected by a 20-year agreement
and, or, a manufacturer’s warranty that will long outlive the installer that
happened to put their system up.
Why is this happening?
Solar is evolving from early adopter to mass deployment, attracting many new businesses, some looking to make a quick buck. Some businesses used aggressive sales tactics such as door knocking and cold calling to generate fast business growth, and many of these operations have come and gone.
Many well established Long Island solar companies, like EmPower Solar, have been around since the early 2000’s. After the big New York solar boom of 2013, many national companies opened offices here and others popped up seemingly overnight. Unfortunately, they didn’t all exactly embrace the same “amazing customer experience” culture that we did and instead focused on rapid growth. As a result, many of them received low customer satisfaction ratings, and frankly, didn’t make it. There are companies, like us, who focused on consistent, sustainable, and scaled growth, and these are the ones that will continue to have a place in the local market for the long haul.
What do I do if my company is no longer around?
Step 1. Don’t panic. If your auto mechanic closed shop, you’d find another one, right?
The bottom line is: Solar on Long Island is a strong, robust, dependable, and long-lasting industry . When done correctly, companies will continue to find success in the marketplace. You can find industry projections and insights here:
As for us, EmPower Solar continues to receive unprecedented customer satisfaction ratings from our clients and has had several record years in a row by EmPowering more homeowners than ever.
Going solar is always the right decision and Long Islanders should feel safe and secure in making the decision to go solar. Like any other big home improvement, it is important to do your consumer research, and know what questions to ask. We’ve put together a checklist of important topics to cover when doing your solar research.
The most important things to look for: (THE THREE Ps – People, product, pricing + production. Or, who, what, and how much?)
Below is a deeper look into the ongoing ITC Section 201 Solar Trade Case. Here are some major takeaways:
The impending outcome of the Section 201 Trade Case by Suniva and Solar World is a large threat to an otherwise upward growth trajectory in the solar industry, mainly caused by product affordability. A negative outcome could result in a threat to consumers, an estimated 88,000 American jobs, and the current momentum towards a cleaner economy. According to ClearView Energy Partners and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, the proposed tariff and price floors would double the price of solar panels in the United States. Estimates from ClearView Energy Partners place the potential price increases even higher, at 98% - 162%
Suniva is a U.S. based manufacturer of high-efficiency crystalline silicon photovoltaic solar cells and high-power solar modules. Their claim, in this case, is that due to being priced out of manufacturing by companies overseas they could no longer compete and went bankrupt.
Solar-World, their co-petitioner, is another U.S based manufacturer. The ownership of their technologies and assets are split between companies from Germany and Qatar. They haven’t had American ownership since the 80’s.
The petition was filed by Suniva on May 17, 2017. The first phase of the case involved the ITC’s determination of “injury,” was deemed applicable by the ITC this morning. Now we have reached the “remedy” phase, during which the ITC must deliver a transmittal report to the president by November 13, 2017, containing any relief recommendations. The president then has until January 12, 2018, to decide whether to accept the ITC’s recommendation and impose that relief, impose alternative relief, or not impose any relief.
“Solar Section 201 Case - Frequently Asked Questions.” SEIA,
So what now?
There is still a lot yet to be determined, and a strong case to be made against aggressive tariffs. For clarity, we have included excerpts from a blog on the case written by SunPower’s CEO, Tom Werner. Which you can find in full, here.
“Should the ITC move ahead with recommending import tariffs, quotas, or other global import restrictions, the result will be right out of an Economics 101 textbook. Prices for American-manufactured solar equipment will rise, and a global marketplace will adjust to source from competitively-priced foreign sources. That could undermine an American industry that has been experiencing exponential growth and creating jobs at an unprecedented rate. And the potential knock-on effect on other industries we partner with – including steel, glass, and aluminum – is alarming.”
“...I’m optimistic that the Administration recognizes that, as one of the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy, solar presents a unique opportunity for our economy and nation’s competitiveness. To be clear, two very small companies are driving the case, both of which are controlled by companies outside the U.S. They represent less than one-half of one percent of the nation’s solar energy workforce. Quite simply – when the Administration reviews all the facts, I think they will see that following the lead of a China-owned company puts American energy leadership into the hands of foreign competitors.
"The application of tariffs is not inevitable and is far from over. The ITC will now hold a “remedy hearing” during which alternative recommendations will be put forward, followed by a formal ITC recommendation to President Trump, who will make a final decision by early January.”
Werner summarizes his arguments against the case into these four bullet points:
Our ability to compete globally will be hindered. Solar energy use has grown significantly as technologies have improved and costs have decreased. The increased prices that result from tariffs will halt – and, in fact, reverse – this momentum, prompting the redirection of investment dollars to what will be more stable and rapidly growing markets in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Jobs will be permanently lost. There are now 260,000 jobs in the solar power industry, with annual employment growth running in double digits. If artificially-forced increased prices depress the market, many of those jobs will be at risk.
Other manufacturing sectors will take a big hit. There will be ripple effects, as well, for the steel, glass and aluminum sectors and other industries that are part of the solar industry’s supply chain.
America will cede leadership in energy innovation to China, India, and many other countries (for no good reason).Whomever wins the race to develop the next great innovative technologies in solar power will have an important advantage in the global energy marketplace. In the name of unnecessary protectionism, the United States would be ceding this leadership role to China, India, and Japan. It shouldn’t escape the Administration’s notice that one of the companies requesting the ITC action is majority Chinese-owned.
In conclusion, he reflects on historic effects of tariffs and SunPower’s outlook for the future.
"Finally, history must be our guide. In 2002, the U.S. government placed stiff tariffs on imported steel in an effort to protect the American steel industry. Instead the action did major damage. It caused the loss of up to 200,000 domestic jobs and the loss of $4 billion in wages over a nine-month period. Adding insult to injury, the tariffs were ultimately withdrawn after a negative hearing at the World Trade Organization. The U.S. should not make the same terrible mistake in determining the near-term future of the solar industry."
"Regardless of this decision, we are committed to working toward a constructive outcome and believe we must achieve one together. The ITC didn’t act in the best interests of an American success story, but now there is a real chance for both the Commission and the Administration to do so and maintain the nation’s leadership in solar energy technology development and solar energy deployment. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and will be engaged to help ensure this happens."
So, given all of this information, SunPower by EmPower Solar has decided to oppose the trade case. The outcome for the solar industry is uncertain as of today, but we will be monitoring the situation closely. Another thing we are in agreement with SunPower on, is our confidence in our ability to continue providing a premium product at an affordable price regardless of the economic sanctions put in place by the ITC. We remain driven, energized, and ready to adjust business effectively to support a clean, renewable, and cost-effective energy market in New York state.
Going solar doesn’t just mean switching energy sources, it means electrifying your life and unlocking a world of possibilities for your home. It starts with being efficient and includes heating and cooling systems, geothermal technology, electric vehicle charging, and even smart home technology. We encourage you to take steps to ELECTRIFY Your Life with the Sun and convert to a 100% renewable energy lifestyle.
Solar Assessment or Energy Audit - What comes first?
It’s the age-old question; should I go solar first or should I complete energy efficiency upgrades? For years, the two have been pitted against each other, even NYS financing programs forced homeowners to choose one or the other. The truth is; they are complimentary and can be done in tandem to ensure maximum home performance.
Most homeowners interested in going solar have a goal to eliminate 100% of their electric bill. With high-efficiency SunPower Panels, a 100% offset is often possible but sometimes there is more energy demand than there is roof space. It may not appear possible at first to be 100% solar powered, but after a bit of discovery, we find they can reduce their energy bills by making their homes tighter through weatherization, sealing, insulation as well as upgrading to a more efficient heating and cooling system.
Why the first step to “electrifying your life” should be energy efficiency
There is a lot that a Long Island home can do to improve their home’s performance and transition to a 100% renewable energy lifestyle. One of the most important steps is making sure you have an efficient foundation to start with. There’s not much sense in investing in the latest and greatest heating and cooling system if you’re losing most of that air through hollow walls. Also, how will you power your electric car if you have solar energy credits flying out of a drafty window?
Homes that should explore energy efficiency upgrades
All homes should take advantage of the NYS free energy audit, but certain applications are particularly in need:
An ideal home for solar
About 60% of homes on Long Island are viable for solar panels. Here are some key indicators about what makes a home eligible for solar panels;
SunPower by EmPower & Green Home Solutions Long Island
We’re proud to announce that Long Island’s top solar and energy efficiency companies have joined forces to help our customers benefit from these amazing and complementary technologies.
This blog was written by the SunPower by EmPower summer intern, Pamela Tuwaidan.
In the 2005 movie An Inconvenient Truth , former vice president Al Gore talks about climate change, global warming, and how people can take action to make the world a more environmentally safe place.
Throughout the years, the world has become a more hazardous complicated place because of all the hazardous chemicals polluting the air, this is causing the sun's radiation to stay in the earth's atmosphere. The hazardous released chemicals are greenhouse gases which can be produced from industrial processing, industrial agriculture, land transportation, and many others.
To everyone, it could seem like these greenhouse gases are no big deal, but they are. These greenhouse gases traps the sun's radiation in the earth's atmosphere making it hotter on earth. Since the temperature is increasing every day, the effects are melting ice and glaciers. This temperature increase is happening worldwide Mountains in some parts of the world no longer have ice on top of them.There are glaciers that are breaking apart and the extra water is flowing into the ocean. Since there's more water in the ocean, this causes flooding in other parts of the world. It’s especially influential to the state of Florida, which due to rising sea levels, has alarming rates of flooding and is projected to increase substantially. It also affected New York, in 2012 Hurricane Sandy took its toll on the people in New York City and Long Island.
With all the extra hot air in the earth's atmosphere, it's causing vast climate change in the US and other countries. Although, there could be a way to stop these climate changes and stop global warming.
One way to help reduce these greenhouse gases is to switch from gas cars to electric cars. The factor that makes electric cars environmentally safe is, it reduces the harmful chemicals that go into the air. This will decrease emissions from burning fossil fuels. This will help the world tremendously and make the air less polluted.
Another way to help make the world environmentally safe is having solar panels on homes or in communities. The use of solar panels is, instead of having the sun's radiation stay in the earth's atmosphere and make the world hotter, the sun's radiation can be stored in the solar panels and then used to generate energy for the whole house. Not only are you saving the planet, you could save a lot on your electric bill. Because not a lot of people use the electricity produced in 24 hours, all the extra electricity gained can be used when there is a power outage or when it's a cloudy day.
There are many other initiatives that people can take to help make the world a better and a more environmentally safe place. Although only you can help start making a difference in the world.
“If we're destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there's got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that." -Ellen Degeneres
When George Klein retired his tools at the end of this electrician career, he probably didn't realize that he was far from done producing energy.
He spent many years staying up to date on industry practices, and technical awareness in the field. This knowledge base was both a cause for concern and an important skill when deciding who to use for his solar panel installation. From the initial phone call, Klein was involved in deciding where the system would be located, the types of equipment used, and the functionality of the panels. The eager interest continued through to the end of installation, and each question was answered in detail by each employee he encountered.
Klein’s interest in the recent technological advancements represents a small fraction of a much larger national transition to renewable sources. As solar transitions to a more commonplace occurrence, people from all schools of thought, occupations, ages and locations are considering the viability of going solar.
New York State has seen an 800 percent increase over the last 5 years with Long Island being the leading region in the state with over 38,000 residential solar installations.
The interplay of cost savings, governmental incentives, customer service and technological efficiency are what persuaded Klein to his transition. “I went solar because the [electricity] rates are high, and they are only getting higher,” stated Klein. “It will increase the value of the house, so it’s a good investment.” It’s important to note that not one of these factors are to be discounted, Klein later says, “I wouldn't have done it if not for the government incentives and tax credits.”
Klein’s 8 kW system covers all of his electricity usage, including air conditioning. After 44 years of being an electrician, keeping the power on is finally something Klein doesn't have to worry about anymore!
“If you’re thinking of going solar, EmPower Solar is a company to consider. I had EmPower solar install a solar system on my house in June 2016. Their salesman was fully acquainted with their solar systems. He answered all my questions fully. Being a retired electrician of 44 years I had a few. The office project manager kept me informed through the whole process. Their install crew was excellent which made the install move smoothly When it came time to commission the system. Every step was explained to me. At conclusion of the project I had no complaints. When appointments were made they were always on time. Empower Solar is one of the best companies I have ever had the pleasure to do business with.”
For most people, “going solar” means putting 20-30 solar panels on your single-family home to eliminate your electric bill. For others, who have impediments like like large shading trees, multiple dormers, or a slate roof, meant that a solar array was out of the question. With no way around it, these people were stuck paying high electric rates and handling whatever cards your electricity provider dealt you.
Luckily for NYC and Long Island residents, that’s not the case anymore. Here's why:
Let us introduce, Community Solar.
As solar catapults into mainstream consumerism, this business model is on its way to taking center stage. Community Solar “subscriptions” are available to all electricity customers. Subscriptions provide access to all the benefits of clean, lower cost energy without requiring on-site generation. This means you can reap the financial, environmental, and economical benefits of solar energy without having an installation on your home.
The market potential is huge in urban areas, and we are excited to include the service as one of our core offerings through our sister company, Solar Ex .
How it works:
Cheap, clean, communal energy. Money goes back into the pockets of building and land owners businesses that get rent to install solar on their roofs and the energy consumer has a lower monthly electric bill. This is now all possible without having to physically installing the panels on a client’s own home.
Are you interested in lower electric bills, low carbon footprint, and contributing to a strong local economy? Fill out your information here to learn more about subscribing.