by Allen Hibner:
This is a very exciting time for the Town of Penfield to be selecting its CCA administrator. The New York State Department of Public Service (NYS DPS) recently approved a very innovative CCA program that will be piloted by the Villages of Brockport and Lima in the coming weeks and months. Read the September 15th, 2020 Press Release about this very exciting program here. Or you can listen to this incredible story on Connections with Evan Dawson: Exploring how community solar programs work.
So why does the PenfieldCCA Residents’ Committee want to see this very same CCA program implemented in Penfield?
What are the benefits for Penfield of an Opt-Out Community Solar Program?
An “Opt-Out” Community Distributed Generation (CDG) program would make Community Solar produced electricity available to all Penfield residents and small businesses that are eligible (*see customer eligibility exceptions at the end of this article) and does not require any action (or a contract) on their part to participate.
This program provides access to solar credits at a 10% discount to standard utility electricity rates for a period of 20 years.
This program will make it much easier for Penfield to provide lower rates overall for 100% clean, carbon free and renewable electricity for all of its CCA participants as compared with trying to beat a 12 month “look-back” average rate for RG&E’s electricity “default offering” in our CCA program. Instead, we can “look forward” to 10% discounts off their rates for decades.
Penfield residents in this program will receive a single bill that combines utility supplied electricity charges and solar credits on that one bill. National Grid has already done this in its service area (for the Brockport & Lima pilot program), but the Public Service Commission (in 2019) mandated that all NY utilities, including RG&E, provide single, combined billing for Opt-Out Solar in 2021.
This program will share revenues collected from CDG sponsors as compensation for the community’s role in subscribing projects. A portion of this revenue accrues to a “sustainability fund,” to be spent at the discretion of the participating municipality. For example: 5,000 participating households in Penfield would generate a $250,000 fund to spend as Penfield sees fit.
NYSERDA will very shortly (October 2020) be announcing a new round of funding for its Clean Energy Community (CEC) competitive grants. Penfield NEEDS to move quickly to win a grant (prior rounds of CEC grants awarded up to $100,000 for communities of 40,000 residents or less like Penfield)! We are in a good position to win one! NYSERDA has added many NEW High Impact Actions (30 in total) that municipalities can take to earn points and win these grants. Here are two key actions (of the total number we will need - prior grant rounds required completing 4 high impact actions) that we would receive points for if we implement “Opt-Out” Community Solar:
Join or form a CCA that buys 100% renewable as its default product for residents (our PenfieldCCA Residents’ Committee has wanted this from day one).
Enroll your community in an opt-out CDG (community solar) offering (this will earn High Impact Activity Points and is an incentive to do so for Penfield)
Privately developed CDG solar projects within a utility’s service area (RG&E in our case) will be the primary pipeline of capacity to serve the program. However, Municipalities may seek to maximize program value by pursuing CDG solar project origination within their own municipal boundaries. Either way, a CCA Opt-Out solar program incentivizes much more rapid solar development, creates jobs and spurs increased economic activity locally.
So… what’s not to like about Opt-Out Community Solar for Penfield?
As you can see from the press release that I linked to this blog article above, Joule Community Power created this 1st in the nation, innovative opt-out community solar program. At this point in time, Joule is the only NY State approved CCA administrator that can offer this program. All of the members of the PenfieldCCA Residents’ Committee want this program to be implemented in Penfield. We will be asking members of the Energy and Environmental Advisory Committee (EEAC) to select a CCA administrator that can offer and implement this program for us.
If you would like to see Penfield implement Opt-Out Community Solar in its Community Choice Aggregation program too, email Supervisor Tony LaFountain here: firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at the Town Hall at: (585) 340-8630 to let him know what you want.
Again, this is a very exciting time for the Town of Penfield to be selecting its CCA administrator. We have more choices than ever! We will keep you informed as this process unfolds over the coming weeks and months.
*Opt-Out Community Solar customer eligibility requirements and exceptions as directly quoted from: Joule Assets, Inc. - Community Choice Aggregation Implementation Plan Appendix B: Finger Lakes Community Choice - March 2020 - Revised August 2020 - Page 14. (Read the ENTIRE TEXT of this Appendix HERE)
In accordance with the CCA Framework Order, utility customers in Service Classes 1 and 2 are eligible for opt-out treatment within CCA programs. For electricity supply, the CCA Framework Order identifies additional eligibility rules. For instance, customers already on ESCO service or with a customer-initiated block on their utility account are not subject to opt-out enrollment.
The Opt-Out CDG Program requires analogous consideration from Staff. While ESCO customers are free to subscribe to a CDG project and should receive opt-out treatment, Joule requests Staff support to work with National Grid to create guidelines for opt-out enrollment. Specifically, we propose that all SC1 and SC2 customers be eligible for opt-out treatment with the exception of those:
a. with an active onsite or remote net metering account.
b. already subscribed to a CDG project.
c. with a customer-initiated block.
d. otherwise deemed ineligible for CDG enrollment in accordance with applicable regulations."