Solar industry representatives in New York are teaming up with organized labor and other environmental advocacy groups to put forth ambitious goals to build a sustainable solar industry in the Empire State. The organizations collectively form the New York Solar Jobs Coalition, and their agenda goes beyond just getting more solar power tied to the grid. The proposal supports strong labor protection and wage laws for solar industry jobs to attract a skilled workforce that will create a more independent energy infrastructure.
New York has been slow to implement solar targets for their energy sector, lagging behind neighboring states New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Now, the Solar Jobs Coalition is calling for a program that will install 5,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power, or roughly 3% of the state’s energy portfolio, over a 15-year period. With the benefit of observing other state-based solar industries, the Coalition is wisely tying these targets to strong workforce standards that ensure efficient, quality work.
“Here in New York, we want to be able to do this work in a way that is cost efficient and that we attract the people with the highest skill,” stated Denis Hughes of the AFL-CIO in a local public radio interview last week.
The legislation supported by the Coalition would create an SREC market that differs from other neighboring states as well. The new SREC market would support distributed generation from residential and small commercial systems by requiring a minimum of 20% of eligible SRECs to come from systems under 50 kW. To attract financing, particularly for large-scale projects, utilities would be required to offer long-term contracts for periods up to 15 years, subject to negotiation for exact length and pricing. The one potential weakness of the proposed legislation is that it does not set a non-compliance penalty, or ACP, that would push buyers into the market and set a price ceiling for the SRECs.
Leaning on Governor Cuomo and state legislators, the Coalition predicts their proposal will build a $20 billion industry to New York while increasing the state’s energy independence and reducing its carbon footprint. The Coalition has garnered support from national and state chapters of solar industry representatives, organized labor, and environmental advocacy groups.