New York-based utility Con Edison has proposed a pilot program to build solar arrays on its company-owned building rooftops and properties to make renewable energy available to low-income customers, a residential sector that has little access to the burgeoning rooftop solar market. According to Con Edison, there would be no cost to low-income participants, who could realize savings of up to $60 per year.
The company said in a filing with the New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) that it can build up to 11 MW of solar generation over five years on more than 40 of its company facility rooftops and other properties in New York City and Westchester County, N.Y. Con Edison estimates that the solar power generated from its facilities could serve 3,000 to 6,000 customers who are in the company’s low-income bill assistance program.
“We are doing our part to help make sure that all our customers, regardless of income level, have access to clean, renewable energy,” said Matthew Ketschke, vice president of distributed resource integration for Con Edison. “We’re committing to put solar panels on our warehouses, substations, office buildings, garages and other properties to expand access.”
Following the model of the state’s Community Distributed Generation program that began last year, Con Edison’s “Shared Solar Pilot Program” would make solar power available to customers who receive bills directly from Con Edison and who are enrolled in the company’s low-income bill assistance program. They also would be encouraged to participate in an energy-efficiency program.
Although the value of the solar credit will vary, Con Edison estimates that a customer who signs up for 300 kWh a month of solar energy – the amount of energy consumed by a typical New York City residential customer – could save up to $5 a month off a bill of about $80. Customers will never pay more in any given month under the Shared Solar Pilot Program than they would have without participating in the program, according to Con Edison.
The utility says its filing is designed to help advance the state’s Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, which aims to give customers more access to distributed generation and other products and services that can help them manage their usage.
According to Con Edison, several factors have made it difficult for low-income customers to access solar energy. First, many of them rent their homes or live in multi-family buildings where they do not have control of their roofs. The upfront costs of installing solar panels and ability to borrow money can also be barriers. Of more than 10,000 Con Edison customers who have solar panels, only about 200 are in the company’s low-income program.
Con Edison’s plan is to initially build 3 MW of generation to serve 800 to 1,600 low-income-metered customers. The company said it has already identified eight properties – four in Queens, two in Brooklyn and two in Westchester County – that would be appropriate for solar panels.
The company says it would use a competitive process to select contractors to design and build the solar arrays and then buy the projects from the developers. If the PSC approves the proposed pilot, Con Edison would partner with community organizations to help market the program to eligible customers. Con Edison estimates the cost of the program to be about $33 million.
Con Edison notes that it already has solar panels on its headquarters in Manhattan. Those panels produce 40 kW of power to the building.