New York Misses Deadline On Enacting Popular Solar Bill


Although the clock ran out on getting a reconciled version of the New York Sun Act through the New York Legislature for the latest session, which ended June 21, the popularity of the measure all but ensures that at least some of its major provisions will be adopted through either reintroduction during the next regular session, legislative action during a special session or executive action.

Legislators in the New York Assembly passed its version of the bill on June 20 by a vote of 118 to 24. The New York Senate passed its version unanimously in April. The bills enact Gov. Andrew Cuomo's program of incentives and financing to add 2.2 GW of solar power capacity in the state by 2023 at an estimated cost of $150 million per year.

David VanLuven, policy director of Environmental Advocates of New York, says the two significant differences between the two bills involve the mechanics of delivering funds for programs on Long Island and tax credits for solar manufacturing in the state.

In the case of Long Island, the Senate bill specified that the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) would be the agent of distribution. Since the future of the unpopular state-owned utility is uncertain, the Assembly added that any successor to LIPA would be able to manage the money.

‘I would call this a matter of cleanup,’ VanLuven says. ‘Since it's a 10-year bill, there has to be some provision for distributing funds regardless of LIPA's future.’

More substantively, the Senate's version wants tax credits for companies that manufacture eligible solar products in New York.

‘The governor did not include tax credits in his plan, and the Assembly did not include credits in its bill,’ VanLuven says.

At the executive level, the governor could enact whatever provisions he chooses through the New York Public Services Commission, a government agency that regulates utilities in the state. Conor Bambrick, air and energy program director of Environmental Advocates, says the drawback with this approach is that the funding would not be ensured from year to year.

‘Action through the Public Services Commission wouldn't guarantee the act would continue if a different administration came along with different priorities,’ Bambrick says.

All in all, the overwhelming popularity of the key measure funding a 2.2 GW expansion in the state's solar power capacity at a cost of $1.5 billion over the course of 10 years makes it highly probable some version of the New York Solar Act will become law. Both versions passed their respective chambers by overwhelming majorities, and Gov. Cuomo is an enthusiastic proponent of solar power. Perhaps most importantly, the idea enjoys widespread public support as well.

‘People love solar,’ says Environmental Advocates' VanLuven. ‘Hands down, solar gets the most enthusiastic response of all the issues we're involved in.’

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