Community net metering is relatively new to New York. Last July, the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order establishing a “community distributed generation program” that allows multiple customers to net meter from a single solar generation facility. Community net metering will implement principles that are part of New York’s sweeping energy policy reform efforts in the ongoing Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) proceeding. In order to coordinate the community net metering program with the broader REV program, the PSC delayed full implementation of its community net metering program until May 1, 2016.
The goal of community net metering is to expand opportunities for participation in solar and other forms of clean distributed generation to utility customers that would not otherwise be able to access that generation directly. Many utility customers, such as residents of multi-unit buildings, lack control over sites that can be configured into a location for a clean generation facility.
To be eligible for community net metering, a generation facility must meet the requirements for New York’s regular net metering program. Instead of having one owner, a community net metering project is owned by 10 or more members, all of whom are located within the same load zone and within the same utility’s service territory. Besides multiple owners, community net metering projects have a sponsor, which may be the generation facility developer, an energy service company, a municipality, a business or non-profit, or other another form of business or civic association. The sponsor builds the generation facility, owns and operates the generation facility, and acts as the liaison between the community members and the utility. Each member of a community net metering project owns or contracts for a proportion of the credits accumulated as a percentage of the facility’s output in excess of usage at the host site. The project sponsor reports these percentages to the utility, and the utility is responsible for distributing the credits to the members in accordance with the sponsor’s instructions.
Due to the PSC’s desire to coordinate community net metering with the REV program, New York’s community net metering is being implemented in two phases. Phase 1 lasts through April 30, 2016. During this period, the PSC will permit community net metering projects only if (1) the project site is in a location that will bolster grid reliability or provide other locational benefits or (2) the project meets a threshold level of low-income customer participation. According to the PSC, these requirements will “advance selected REV principles” above and beyond general clean energy goals. Phase 2, beginning soon on May 1, 2016, has no such restrictions and will be open to all qualifying projects.