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New York City and New York State may not be the first places that come to mind when you think of places leading in the use of solar energy, but a pending piece of landmark legislation might work to change that. The New York Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act of 2010 (S.7093a/A.11004) aka the Solar Jobs Act, provides a policy roadmap for jumpstarting solar industry and the economy in New York. The bill is now being reviewed in Albany, with a floor vote scheduled next week in the Assembly. The Solar Jobs Act requires each New York retail electric supplier, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), and the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) annually procure a gradually increasing percentage of solar through 2025. This will amount to roughly 5,000 megawatts of solar energy. Those targets would be reached through rooftop solar installations or by building solar power plants. Utilities would own and operate their own solar power facilities to meet 25% of their mandate. This would still only amount to 2.5% solar of the total energy pie, but that would be a big increase over the current installed amount, which is less than 25 megawatts. 5,000 megawatts could power 1 million homes.
The bill's future economic benefits should also be dramatic. According to a report released last week by the San Francisco solar advocacy group, Vote Solar, the bill should create 22,198 direct and induced jobs across many fields, education and salary levels, and should boost the economy by $20 billion in economic output including wages and revenues that would be reinvested in New York's economy. All of this would be at a cost of only $0.39 per month to the average residential electricity bill. New Yorkers who switch to online bill pay rather than using a stamp to pay for their electricity bills will already have covered their share of the cost of jumpstarting a new solar economy.
Vote Solar, commissioned the study which was conducted by Crossborder Energy, an independent consultant. They used the Job and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) model developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The analysis used inputs and assumptions drawn from real-world experience of New York solar installers. The analysis also used historical Public Service Commission (PSC) rate data from across all New York utilities and customer classes to extrapolate expected rate trends for the lifetime of the proposed solar legislation.
The legislation would require both private and public utilities, like the LIPA and NYPA, to boost their solar power sales or face penalties. In this way, the legislation acts as a trigger for change and makes utilities more accountable.
New York has been fortunate enough to have retained much of its impressive in-state manufacturing even in these difficult times. New York's enormous electricity needs have also been expanding rapidly. A strong new solar energy market would likely support a new in-state manufacturing base and associated economic benefits.
Precedent has shown that states which make clear, clean energy commitments see reciprocal investment on behalf of manufacturing companies. For example, according to Shaun Chapman, Vote Solar's director of East coast campaigns, states from New Jersey to Arizona have proven that strong policies can and do build robust local solar energy markets.
A coalition of organizations - including Vote Solar, NRDC, the Solar Alliance, the Apollo Alliance, and the Alliance for Clean Energy New York - have so far urged state legislators to pass the Solar Jobs Act and make New York a solar leader.
So New Yorkers call your legislators and demand a brighter future for New York.