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LIPA trustees won’t delay new solar energy compensation plan

Solar installers oppose the measure, saying it could be potentially devastating to the industry.

LIPA's logo is pictured in an undated photo.

LIPA's logo is pictured in an undated photo.

LIPA last week rejected last-minute appeals by more than a dozen local solar companies to delay a new state plan for compensating customers for excess solar energy they generate.

LIPA said it was time to move ahead even as installers criticize the plan as incomplete and potentially devastating.

At a trustees meeting in Uniondale, LIPA officials and trustees said they’d done enough to accommodate solar companies’ long list of concerns about the new plan, which replaces a simple one-for-one compensation for solar energy with one that attempts to value four major pricing factors.

“We have a role and I think we’ve fulfilled that role and need to move forward,” said board vice chairman Tom McAteer. “It’s not a debate club,” added LIPA chief executive Tom Falcone, telling installers to “bring real data and real facts” to the next phase of state hearings on the matter.

Only one trustee, Peter Gollon, attempted to offer a motion to delay implementation of the plan by four months, after the solar companies and their local association argued that implementation would particularly hurt the nascent sector for commercial solar.

“I challenge you to step up,” said Scott Maskin, chief executive of SUNation Solar Systems, the Island’s largest installer with 140 employees. “I hope you have the courage to say this maybe isn’t the right time to do this.”

Carlo Lanza, president of Harvest Solar in Bay Shore, said the new pricing scheme would make small business solar installations particularly unfeasible. “They just don’t pencil out,” he said, at a time when local businesses need those small businesses more than ever.

Solar installations on Long Island were down 44 percent last year over 2016, as some large national installers left the market or went out of business, and local companies faced a “solar-coaster” of the loss of LIPA’s rebate, declining federal tax credits and federal tariffs on equipment.

Just this week, Energy by Choice, a longtime Northport installer, was purchased by SUNation as consolidation of the local market continues. “All of a sudden Long Island solar companies are at a discount,” said Jim Brennan, chief growth officer of SUNation. The new state plan, called VDER, “is going to end commercial solar on Long Island.” VDER stands for value of distributed energy resources.

Kevin MacLeod, president of KPS Solar in Bay Shore, said the new state plan and other anti-solar policies raise questions about Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s TV ad campaign about New York being “open for business.” He said he’s considering moving his business to Florida, where taxes, license fees and red tape are considerably less.

Gollon took heed, saying, “I don’t see the need to rush into something just because the state says, ‘Jump.’” He added, “Implementing this now hurts them more than delaying hurts us.”

But Gollon was dissuaded from moving ahead with a resolution to delay plan’s rollout, after fellow board members declined to support it and LIPA officials suggested such a resolution would be fraught with complications.

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