Solar Power Outlook for 2014 in New York - EmPower Solar

Solar Power Outlook for 2014 in New York

A powerful theme from EmPower Solar’s annual off-site meeting last week was a growing belief that solar can become the dominant energy source in New York within our lifetimes, and that our team members, clients, numerous partners, and supporters are truly capable of making a positive “dent in the universe,” to borrow a motivational phrase from Steve Jobs. This confidence doesn’t stem from some pie in the sky vision. Instead, our vision is fed directly by our ten years of experience and the careful monitoring of over 700 solar power and battery storage systems. These systems are generating predictable, reliable, and clean electricity directly to the end users.

On the larger scale, we’ve turned an 80,000 square foot Estee Lauder Corporation facility in Melville into a near net-zero electricity building for over two years now with a 600 kilowatt solar energy system. On the smaller scale, many of our residential clients derive most of their energy from their roof-top solar. Now, they are adding battery storage systems and electric vehicle charging. Distributed, on-site, roof-top solar is becoming the 21st century utility.

It is this direct experience at the micro end user level that leads us to believe that solar can deliver at the macro level and generate a significant portion of our energy mix. Fortunately, many political and business leaders in New York State agree with this thesis and have catapulted our industry over the past ten years. Today, we continue to have a steady wind at our sails.

Governor Cuomo and the various departments, agencies, and authorities that focus on energy infrastructure are demonstrating impressive leadership. The draft 2014 Energy Plan is a comprehensive game plan that will help us achieve a far cleaner, more resilient energy economy. It covers critical interrelated topics, ranging from improved building codes that will ensure structures are built right the first time, to the establishment of a Green Bank that will work directly with lenders to ensure a vibrant and liquid market for renewable energy financing.

Regarding incentives for 2014, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will continue to provide direct rebates for our ConEdison customers in New York City and Westchester, and PSEG-LI will manage the solar rebate program in Nassau, Suffolk, and the Rockaways. We anticipate that for both territories, 2014 will see very similar solar rebate levels as the end of 2013.

From 2008 to 2013 solar equipment prices decreased over 70%, which enabled LIPA and NYSERDA to reduce the solar rebate by a commensurate amount. However, with solar tariffs put in place by the United States and Europe against Chinese manufacturers, solar prices have stabilized and started to go up. This is why our forecast for direct solar rebates for 2014 is to stay stable–policy makers aim to keep a constant ROI, balancing rebate levels with equipment and installation costs.

The takeover by PSEG-LI of the Long Island utility systems is a major development, and we have high hopes. The state contract negotiated by Gov. Cuomo’s team and the LIPA Board of Trustees is excellent and will help incentivize great performance. PSEG’s track record in New Jersey is outstanding, and the new PSEG-LI President Dave Daly is a battle-hardened utility executive who is sharp and laser focused on delivering outstanding customer service, reliable electricity, and rapid storm response, all while building a more resilient system.

With the current strong incentives, and great solar products such as the solar lease and backup power solutions, we expect 2014 will be a record year for solar on Long Island and New York City. At the same time, EmPower is energized and motivated by the thoughtful planning and strategizing by the Governor’s team about enabling significant long-term growth for solar in New York State. We are excited to collaborate and make a dent in the universe starting right here in our amazing state.

By: David G. Schieren, Chief Executive Officer

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