Happy New Year

This letter was recently published in the New York Solar Energy Industries Association‘s newsletter — something I get to do as the president emeritus. You can browse the entire newsletter here, or read my letter below:

Dear New York Solar Friends & Colleagues,

Happy New Year! I hope you had wonderful holidays, and that 2014 is shaping up to become your best year ever, with lots of sunshine, peace, happiness, good health, and prosperity for all of you and yours.

It’s been a long haul, but my wife Linda had a successful LIVE liver transplant in August (where both the donor’s and recipient’s halves grow back), and she subsequently resolved the remaining issues with a final surgery last month. When I now speak with NYS officials about the new “resiliency” buzzword, I urge them to take lessons from her, as she overcame 14 hospitalizations over the last 14 months (the transplant, as well as winning multiple bouts with pneumonia, sepsis, peritonitis, gastritis, colitis, and C-Diff…).

While I took most of this last year for family medical issues, I’ve also finished a 500KW PV project on Staten Island and a MW Solar Wall Air Heating project at Stewart AFB, and we merged Starphire’s renewable energy marketing & public policy consulting practice with EarthKind’s solar, CHP, and efficiency project development business.

It is heartening to see the NY Solar Industry’s progress since passing the torch to Sean, Mary, Alfredo and the new NYSEIA Board, and humbling to be reminded that transitions of leadership often create things that are even better than before. In this last week, with support & direction from the Governor & PSC, we’ve seen NYSERDA request:

  • $960,556,000 of new funding for 3,000 MWs of CST PV
  • That LIPA/PSEG Long Island residential and small non-residential customers participate in the statewide PV program – with the PSC desiring NYPA to be in one uniform program as well…
  • A MW block plan by 2014 Q1 for the PV standard offer program (up to 200kW), with a similar program to be created later for the current competitive PV program (200-2,000kW)

I am tremendously excited about the new leadership at NYSERDA and the NYS Public Service Commission. Governor Cuomo’s Chairman of Energy and Finance, Richard Kauffman, has been working with the PSC’s new Chairwoman, Audrey Zibelman, and the new NYSERDA President / CEO John Rhodes to redefine the role of utilities and energy incentives. In December’s “trilogy of orders”, the PSC “…begins the process of articulating the broad policy based outcomes intended for the clean energy programs”, and “directs Staff to recommend, in the first quarter of 2014, a process that will result in timely decisions regarding changes to our regulatory model, including performance and outcome based incentives, that will be required to achieve our broad policy objectives”.

The PSC agreed with PACE/NRDC (and us) that “we need to have an incentive structure in place that not only makes utilities indifferent to revenue losses from efficiency (as revenue decoupling does) but provides affirmative motivation”. The PSC “intends to change the regulatory model so that …incentives are not confined to a narrow silo of meeting certain single metric targets, but are integrally bound to the utilities’ business model.”

What this means is that New York State utilities will soon stop fighting efficiency, solar and other distributed generation, since they will be making a profit from them. The old models are about to be turned upside down, and a “new day” is dawning. With the creation of the Green Bank, the PSC also authorized NYSERDA to reallocate unencumbered Main Tier funds to the solar photovoltaic (solar PV) programs “with the goal of reducing and ultimately eliminating RPS incentives for PV systems by or before 2020”.

While change is always scary, the “future looks bright” to those who can evolve to the new structures.

I’m in the process of deciding which new projects, business development, and public policy ventures I’ll be pursuing this year, and am always interested in talking and working with good people who are doing interesting things. If you’d like to discuss any of the above or other topics, please email me.

Otherwise, I look forward to participating with you in the NYSEIA member calls, and hope to see you soon!

Best Regards,
Ron