New York’s Golden Opportunity for Solar Energy

By Mark Richardson, President and CEO of U.S. Light Energy

I’ve just finished a new podcast featuring an interview with David Wallace-Wells, whose new book, The Uninhabitable Earth, Life After Warming, offers a sobering account of the current state of our climate and humanity’s path forward. The single most alarming fact is that “half of all the carbon we’ve put into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels has come in the last 30 years.” Perhaps worse, we are nowhere near slowing down.

That statistic jumped out at me, particularly in light of the anticipated new order from the state Public Service Commission that has the potential to make a significant difference for New York’s renewable energy future. If we truly want to reduce our carbon emissions while also generating billions of dollars in private investment and creating high-paying renewable energy jobs, state lawmakers, the PSC, and NYSERDA have a golden opportunity right now to put New York at the forefront of a powerful economic engine: the fight against climate change.

With its pending order on the Value of Distributed Energy Resources, or VDER, it is time for the PSC to create an economically meaningful valuation for renewable energy. Increasing the existing Community Solar Market Transition Credit by $17.48 per MWh – the same amount given to the nuclear industry in New York in the 2016 nuclear bailout –and applying it to all renewable distributed generation across the board would create a robust, self-sustaining solar industry with market certainty and economic visibility beyond just a few months at a time. Ultimately, it would eliminate the need for a state-sponsored solar incentive program altogether.

The timing is auspicious given Governor Cuomo’s proposed Green New Deal, which would establish a best-in-the-nation clean energy agenda in New York, increasing the state’s Clean Energy Standard from 50 to 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030, and statutorily requiring the state’s power to be 100 percent carbon-free by 2040.

We need this now more than ever, and the PSC should not miss the chance to take an important step forward. The easy response, the tried-and-true “we can’t afford it,” simply doesn’t work. The truth is, we can’t afford not to fully embrace the Green New Deal. It’s time to create a new vision for the New York solar energy market by thinking big, providing economic stability that slows the “solar coaster,” and solidify an industry that is crucial to New York’s energy, environmental, and economic future.


Mark Richardson
President and CEO
U.S. Light Energy

New York State of Opportunity NYSERDA
NYSEIA New York Solar Energy Industries Association
NY BES+ / New York Battery and Energy Storage Technology Consortium
NABCEP Board Certified PV Installation Professional
NABCEP Board Certified PV Technical Sales