Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I Don't Want to Wait in Vain for the Sun

You may remember my recent post on solar incentives in New York State. Until now, a strong combination of rebates and tax incentives has made solar energy for homeowners a lucrative investment.

The reason why I say “until now” is because all of that might change. Sure, it probably won’t, but it might, and it might happen as early as January 1st.

Funding for the solar rebates since 2002 has come from the Systems Benefit Charge – it’s a small fee added on to the electric bills of ratepayers in most of New York State. The Systems Benefit Charge is used to finance all kinds of programs to promote energy efficiency and renewable technologies. (Unless you live in Long Island, take a look at your electric bill, you’ll see it)

But with the implementation of a statewide Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), mandating that 25% of New York’s energy supplies come from renewable resources by 2013, funding for solar rebates will soon be coming from the RPS – a similar, but different ratepayer’s fee from the Systems Benefit Charge. Confused yet?... I know, this is a lot more complicated than it needs to be, but bear with me here for a sec.

The problem is that funding is switching over to the RPS on January 1st, and as of right now, today, November 14, the Public Service Commission still hasn’t announced what the incentives will be. The only thing we do know is that funding in 2006 for solar rebates was about $6 million. Funding in 2007 under the RPS will probably be about $3.5 million. This is the part that really matters, because where the state is going to have to pinch and save a couple of bucks to make up the difference, no one knows.

The rebates might go down from the current $4 per watt to $3.50 per watt. Or the system size might be reduced, so that only smaller systems will qualify for the rebates. No one really knows.

Did I mention that today is November 14? These changes are going to be effective in 46 days, and no one has a clue what they will be. Solar installers are staking their livelihoods on the success of this industry, and they have no idea what kind of business plan they should be developing a month and a half from now. How can this be happening?

Imagine if taxes were going to be restructured across the state, or if health care, educational funding, or social security was going to be almost cut in half, and 40 days prior, the state still wasn’t disclosing the actual logistics.

This is what solar folks are facing right now. We’re all going about our business because it doesn’t seem that anything too drastic is likely to happen. But funding is going to be cut almost in half, and for people trying to make a living in this industry, that’s a pretty big deal. The least they could do is let us know in advance if the rug is going to get pulled out from under us.

Instead… we’ll keep waiting… but it’s getting to be quite a drum roll.

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At 12:49 AM, Anonymous Becca said...

So now that the month's almost over...what's the verdict?


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