“We now produce enough solar energy here to power 67,000 homes.”
Across our state, New Yorkers are reaping benefits from plugging into clean energy. Households that put solar on their roof are saving money on their utility bills, increasing the stability of their electricity supply and creating local jobs and investment in their communities. We now produce enough solar energy here to power 67,000 homes, and the growth rate puts us on track to produce 20% of our electricity from solar by 2025, according to a recently released report. This growth in solar adoption is also providing thousands of jobs. There are more than 7,000 jobs in New York’s solar industry (more than 2,000 added in 2015). This is all great news for those of us eager to transition New York to a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy system.
Until now, solar energy was inaccessible to most New Yorkers. First, there is the issue that many rooftops are unsuitable for solar because of shading, orientation or other issues. Then, there are the barriers that people face if they are renters or live in multi-family buildings, or if they can’t take advantage of the tax credits, qualify for financing, or find the cash up front. Renters, for instance, make up over 45% of the state’s population and an even greater proportion of the population of color. Millions of New Yorkers are locked out of going solar, which means that millions of New Yorkers aren’t able to take advantage of the cost savings that solar has to offer.

Making solar energy accessible to all New Yorkers is an environmentally urgent issue. It is also a social justice issue. If we hope to address catastrophic climate change, we need solar to grow much faster in New York. And if we want to be fair, we need to make solar energy accessible to everyone who is paying for our state’s solar incentives.

The answer is “shared solar.”

Shared Solar is a common sense concept that was just made possible by the Public Service Commission last year, thanks to the efforts of a big coalition of low-income groups, environmental organizations and solar developers, led by Vote Solar, and including the Energy Democracy Alliance. Community Shared Solar (also called remote net metering (RNM) allows people to join together to invest in or subscribe to solar arrays built somewhere other than their own property and to reap the benefits directly on their own energy bill. (RNM applies to other renewables like wind, too)

The Energy Democracy Alliance Community Owned Shared Renewables Working Group, called Just build it

Just Build It is an NYEDA member network of organizations and individuals who are working to advance locally controlled, community-based and shared renewable energy projects across New York State. The Alliance convened Just Build It as a space for its members to learn from and support one another as they endeavor to achieve their project goals and collectively create an new energy paradigm for New York State that is diverse, carbon-free and democratic.

What does just build it do?

Just Build It is a community. Together we promote the exchange of ideas, best practices, lessons learned, cautionary tales and other knowledge-based resources that relate to the various practical aspects of planning and realizing community and shared renewable projects. We advocate for policies and regulations that support community ownership and development of shared solar projects that broaden access to this resource

At this conference and moving forward, topics Just Build It will cover include: project finance options, choosing a cloud customer management service, navigating interconnection, choosing your business model, to develop or partner – how do I decide?, and the shared solar development process, step by step.

Just Build It members communicate and share through bi-weekly conference calls, a listserv, events, webinars, and an online member intranet, https://energydemocracyny.org/communitysolar, that facilitates member exchange through forums, project displays, document libraries and other collaborative tools.

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