Plan expands access to community solar, reduces energy costs for customers
Submitted by National Grid
National Grid has submitted a first-of-its-kind proposal to enhance its upstate New York Community Distributed Generation Program that, if approved by state regulators, would expand access to clean energy to more low and moderate income customers.
Solar-powered generation is a vital part of the strategy to meet New York’s clean energy goals. While many customers benefit from the savings of rooftop solar, not every customer has the means or ability to install solar panels on their home or small business. Launched in 2015, the company’s Community Distributed Generation Program enables customers to participate in local clean energy projects such as community solar without having to install solar panels on their property. Under the company’s latest proposal, these clean energy projects would be even more accessible to a broader set of customers.
“We believe everyone should be empowered to participate in the clean energy transition and share in the benefits that distributed solar can bring,” said Tara Kapila, National Grid Vice President of Customer Product Growth. “Lower income households have historically struggled to participate in solar programs and we’re aiming to change that with our customer-focused program.”
If approved, the proposal would simplify bills for customers, eliminate the need for customer credit checks, and establish a new Customer Experience Management service that reduces the costs of engaging and enrolling customers in community solar projects.
The new billing system would apply net solar benefits directly on a customer’s National Grid bill. By comparison, customers enrolled in today’s community solar programs receive two bills: a monthly utility bill with a credit for their share of the energy produced by the solar facility, and another bill from the owner of the facility for the subscription costs. While customers typically save about 10 percent off their electricity bill based on the bill credits they receive, the two-bill experience continues to create confusion. The new billing system would enable a single bill for community solar customers.
Additionally, facility owners generally don’t seek participants without good credit history, often requiring at least a 700 FICO® credit score. This significantly limits the pool of customers who could qualify for community solar. National Grid’s proposal would eliminate the need for credit checks for those customers who otherwise might struggle to meet credit qualifications.
Customer Experience Management
The proposal also features a Customer Experience Management service, that will reduce costs and streamline customer enrollment, making the process simple and easy. The program will offer a month-to-month subscription, no sign-up or cancellation fees, and an electricity bill discount of up to 10 percent. Residential and small business customers with existing National Grid electricity service would be able to sign-up online or in person through the company’s consumer advocates who will partner with local community organizations.
Behind the scenes, National Grid would contract with the community solar facility owner to handle initial customer subscriptions and ongoing customer management. The company would receive a fee from the facility owner for this service. Most of the fee would be used to offset the cost of the company’s renewable energy programs, thereby providing benefits to both subscribing customers and to all of National Grid’s upstate New York electricity customers.
If approved, the proposal would go into effect next year. National Grid expects the program will accelerate the pace of distributed renewable energy development in upstate New York and contribute to the state’s ambitious goal of achieving 100 percent zero-carbon electricity by 2040, while providing significant benefits to customers and developers.
The National Grid program was born from the company’s 2016 demonstration project in the Fruit Belt community of Buffalo, NY, which installed rooftop solar on the homes of low- to moderate-income customers. While differing from the Fruit Belt demonstration, the proposal tackles some of the same issues by leveraging off-site community solar to provide benefits to those customers.
About National Grid
National Grid (LSE: NG; NYSE: NGG) is an electricity, natural gas, and clean energy delivery company serving more than 20 million people through our networks in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. We are the largest distributor of natural gas in the Northeast. National Grid also operates the systems that deliver gas and electricity across Great Britain.
National Grid is transforming our electricity and natural gas networks with smarter, cleaner, and more resilient energy solutions to meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Our Northeast 80x50 Pathway is an industry-leading analysis for how to reach that goal in the states we serve, focusing on the power generation, heat, and transportation sectors.
Read more about the innovative projects across our footprint in The Democratization of Energy, an eBook written by National Grid’s U.S. president, Dean Seavers. For more information please visit our website, follow us on Twitter, watch us on YouTube, friend us on Facebook and find our photos on Instagram.
About National Grid
National Grid (NYSE: NGG) is an electricity, natural gas, and clean energy delivery company serving more than 20 million people through our networks in New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. National Grid is transforming our electricity and natural gas networks with smarter, cleaner, and more resilient energy solutions to meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. As part of our commitment to a clean energy future, National Grid is a Principal Partner for COP26, the UN global climate summit, which will be located in the UK in November 2021.
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