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Solar Mandate? Like it or Not, Consumers Pay

Fortnightly Magazine - December 1998

SBC fund administrator, %n16%n although nearly a quarter of the SBC funds are retained by utilities for projects deemed to be of public benefit.

Some $234.3 million in SBC funds will be collected for three years. The PSC will later assess whether to continue collecting them. %n17%n

The NYSERDA plan for the SBC approved on July 2 by the PSC results in allocation of $11.5 million over three years for renewables financing. That includes $5.5 million for PV demonstration projects, to flow from the research and development program. %n18%n Competitive bids and co-funding from non-SBC sources will be used by NYSERDA for new PV financing under the SBC. Bids are expected this winter. Assistance is sought for program design.

SBC dollars for PV will assist utilities like Niagara Mohawk %n19%n and other developers since the NYSERDA programs are competitive and don't give preference to utilities. Larger grid-connected PV installations have been financed by the New York Power Authority, Niagara Mohawk Power Corp., and New York State Electric & Gas. The renewable energy skyscraper, 4 Times Square, is funded partially by NYSERDA and largely through private funds. NYSERDA provides funds to the company laminating the PV-integrated curtain walls on the skyscraper.

NYSERDA has an active research and development program that has contracted for nearly $1 million in photovoltaic projects each year to help companies with innovative PV-integrated technologies. These funds are not part of the SBC program.

The Long Island Power Authority announced in February the creation of a $32 million Clean Energy Fund "to support energy efficiency, clean distributed generation and renewable technologies." It plans to make 10 percent of the fund available to low-income households. Since LIPA was created to supplant the investor-owned utility, the Long Island Lighting Co., %n20%n high customer rates were reduced 20 percent.

New PV installations are expected on Long Island in view of new state laws on net metering and tax credits enacted by the New York legislature. %n21%n The laws provide for net metering for residential PV customers with a 25 percent personal income tax credit, capped at $3,750.

The Long Island Citizens Advisory Panel and Natural Resources Defense Fund are advocating a PV net metering pilot project to initiate the LIPA efforts. %n22%n

Illinois. A system benefits charge will raise $5 million annually to develop renewable energy resources under the first Midwest state electric restructuring law. %n23%n A 5 cent-per-month surcharge on residential customers will be matched by an equivalent amount of dollars from commercial and industrial utility customers. The surcharge will be administered as the Renewable Energy Resources Program, under the Department of Commerce & Community Affairs. The Renewable Energy Resource Program guidelines %n24%n for the SBC are under review to provide "grants, loans, and other incentives to foster investment in the development and use of renewable energy resources." %n25%n

Expected to be issued this year, the draft guidelines consider consumer rebates for PV and wind systems and small business grants for larger renewable energy systems. Grants would fund 60 percent of costs up to $5,000 for PV cells and panels, and 60