Upstate New Yorkers could be set to benefit even further from solar energy if a new proposal from National Grid is accepted by state regulators. The proposal, described as “first-of-its-kind”, is targeting an upgrade of National Grid’s upstate New York Community Distributed Generation Program.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this new proposal concerns the access it could provide for low-and-moderate income (LMI) customers. Solar energy consumers benefit in a number of ways, saving on their utility bills and contributing to a clean, renewable future for the state of New York. Traditionally, solar panels are associated with residential and commercial installations, primarily serving homes and businesses.
However, in recent years, community solar has emerged as a viable, cost-efficient alternative for those who are unable to install solar panels on their own property. Since 2015, the New York Community Distributed Generation Program from National Grid has allowed those customers who can’t install on their own property to avail of the benefits of solar power.
Now, as noted above, the company is keen to expand access to the program for a wider base of customers across upstate New York. In particular, the focus is on LMI customers who, historically, have found it difficult to participate in solar programs and make the most of the various benefits of solar energy. National Grid plans to simplify the billing process, eliminate unnecessary credit checks, and further develop their customer service approach, in order to allow greater access to the community solar program. The two main components of this approach, Streamlined Billing and Customer Experience Management are outlined in greater detail below.
The current billing system for community solar programs sees the customer receiving two separate bills each month—a regular utility bill (which includes credits for the customer’s portion of the solar energy produced at the community solar facility) and a separate bill for their community solar subscription costs. Overall, customers do still save on their monthly utility costs with this two-bill approach, but it can get confusing. The new proposal would simplify things into a single-bill system, eliminating confusion while keeping the same great community solar savings.
Customer Experience Management
National Grid are also eager to streamline the entire community solar process for both consumers and solar facility owners. The company is planning to simplify their community solar program through a number of different approaches covering everything from cost to sign-up:
No fees for sign-up/cancellation
Electric bill discount of up to 10%
Existing residential/small business customers able to sign-up online/in person
National Grid would handle subscriptions/customer management on behalf of the solar facility owner
If this new National Grid proposal is accepted and approved by state regulators, it will come into effect next year.
By Shane Croghan