In response to the recent decision by LIPA to not halt or delay the implementation of Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) program, SUNation CEO Scott Maskin wrote the following which was submitted as an Op-Ed to Newsday. Although Newsday chose not to run this, we are compelled to share it as Scott and the entire SUNation family believes this is too important of an issue to let it simply fade away.

Long Island just got the solar shaft from the state capital. The Public Service Commission (PSC), NYSERDA and Upstate utilities have conspired with the Long Island Power Authority to DE-VALUE the benefits of going solar for businesses on Long Island.  LIPA CEO Tom Falcone stated that the program must work for all stakeholders; the ratepayers, the utility and the solar contractors. Unfortunately, this program will fail to achieve the prime directive for all three.

The center of this perfect storm of regulatory madness is Value of Distributed Energy Resources or VDER. VDER was proposed in support of the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), Governor Cuomo’s comprehensive energy strategy that is touted to ‘helps consumers make more informed energy choices, develop new energy products and services, and protect the environment while creating new jobs and economic opportunity throughout the State.’ In reality, VDER eliminates net metering which allows solar arrays on commercial buildings to share the extra energy they produce with the local grid for credits against their monthly utility bill. Net metering helps to take stress off the electrical grid’s production generated from burning fossil fuels.

On March 29th, the LIPA board of trustees DID NOT halt or further delay implementation of the Value of Distributed Energy Resources program (VDER) which on May 1st will effectively devalue new commercial solar by 20% or more. The ill-informed decision will next affect residential solar as VDER 2 looms in two years. Yet LIPA in its own 2016 report stated that $ 14 million invested in renewables returned $ 78 million in benefits for ALL stake holders, solar participants or not.

Stake Holders at the meeting ONLY included local solar installers that have been building this local industry for over 15 years. No national residential leasing companies nor those companies that do the big solar farms through LIPA feed in tariffs were present. So, the local companies that employ, re-invest and help keep rate payer money in circulation on Long Island will be hurt by this program.  However, the small business owners are really the ones being disadvantaged here. The national companies will just move on to greener pastures as many already have. The local companies submitted a path that could achieve the desired goals with minimal impact that was dismissed and were directed to participate in VDER 2 discussions by LIPA officials.

As Governor Cuomo begins his presidential bid, undoubtedly his renewable energy initiatives will be front and center. Yet through the VDER program, his NY SUN initiative where 50% of state energy will be provided by renewables by 2030 is set to fail. At a time when President Trump initiated trade tariffs on imported solar panels, a move that has already stirred a move by some to begin manufacturing in the USA, what we really needed was a Governor more committed to LI job growth than lobbying efforts by upstate utilities. The LIPA trustees did a disservice to ALL the ratepayers by not standing up to this mandate and allowed Long Island to be lumped in with the rest of the state. A move that time and time again has robbed Long Island of the share we deserve based on what we contribute.

The Long Island Solar industry had always worked cohesively with LIPA and our voice has mattered until now. Together we’ve faced many challenges and have positively impacted the rate payers both financially and environmentally.  The challenge we now face through VDER implementation is fabricated, damaging and unnecessary at this time.

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