Giving communities access to cheaper solar power

Madeleine Cuff writes on the Business Green website that a new initiative in New York City, Solarize NYC, will allow communities to join together into single purchasing groups to access cheaper solar power. There could be some important lessons for Europe as the introduction of nearly zero energy buildings with the needed energy coming from renewables nearby.


New York unveils new community solar initiative in latest clean energy push

New York has launched a new solar incentive programme, dubbed Solarize NYC, which will allow communities, business districts and even places of worship to band together into a single purchasing group to gain access to competitively priced clean energy.

The scheme, announced by the city’s mayor Bill be Blasio late last week, is the latest initiative designed to scale up New York’s deployment and consumption of clean energy under the One NYC climate programme.

Solarize NYC will allow communities to purchase clean energy as one entity, giving them much greater purchasing power. City officials estimate that the scheme could allow customers to purchase solar energy at a savings rate of up to 20 per cent, while stimulating demand for local solar developers.

“New York City is moving towards renewable, clean energy and away from fossil fuels, and making solar more accessible is a key piece of that puzzle,” said de Blasio in a statement. “Now, Solarize NYC means more and more New Yorkers across the city will have access to lower-cost solar.”

De Blasio has set a target to install 100MW of new solar on public buildings and 250MW of new solar on private buildings by 2025. Since the start of 2014 the amount of solar capacity in the capital has tripled, with total installations reaching almost 75MW.

Meanwhile, on Friday de Blasio unveiled a range of new energy efficiency initiatives designed to slash the carbon footprint of New York City’s buildings. Based on the results of an 18-month investigation by the city’s Buildings Technical Working Group, the initiatives include plans to require buildings to complete cost-effective energy efficiency conservation measures, repair and improve heating systems and assess “deep energy” retrofit measures as part of mandatory energy audits.

In a statement the city said the measures would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings by 2.7m metric tonnes, improve local air quality and save building owners around $900m in annual energy costs.

“Cities that lead on climate, lead on buildings,” de Blasio said in a statement. “These new initiatives will dramatically reduce emissions from New York City’s over one million buildings, while saving New Yorkers millions and creating thousands of new jobs – and we’ll be providing owners with support throughout the process.”

In January New York State governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans for the US state to eliminate all use of coal by 2020 as part of a new environmental package designed to accelerate New York’s transition away from fossil fuels and towards wind and solar power. In tandem, mayor de Blasio has promised to cut New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

In related news, the city of Melbourne in Australia last week announced that it is tendering for a new renewable energy plant, through a pioneering group purchasing model. A group of the city’s large-scale energy users – which includes the University of Melbourne, Bank Australia and the Australia Post – is advertising nationwide for a developer to deliver a large-scale renewable energy plant to deliver clean electricity over a 10-year contract.

“We are challenging the market to supply us with the right energy at the right price,” Melbourne’s lord mayor Robert Doyle said in a statement. “If the market responds effectively, we will see a new renewable energy plant constructed within the next two years.”

The group predicts that it will purchase more than 110GWh of energy – enough to power around 28,000 households in Melbourne for a year.

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