THE ELISABETH HAUB SCHOOL OF LAW CELEBRATES 30 YEARS OF CLEAN ENERGY WORK
AT THE PACE ENERGY AND CLIMATE CENTER
WHITE PLAINS, NY – Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law today celebrated 30 years of work at the Pace Energy and Climate Center (PECC). For three decades, PECC has been at the leading edge of creating and implementing solutions to our energy and climate challenges on the local, state, regional, national, and international levels.
“Pace’s Energy and Climate Center is an important part of the Pace Law campus and our community,” said Dean Horace Anderson. “It is a force for legal and policy change, and has trained many Pace Law students to become the next generation of smart energy professionals, working at home and abroad to create more resilient, sustainable communities.”
“This little Center has had an outsized positive effect on clean energy policy over the past thirty years,” said Karl R. Rábago, current Center director. “We fight well above our weight because of the brilliant and inspired leadership of our founder, Dick Ottinger; because the high caliber of our staff, interns, and colleagues; and because of the steadfast support of our community, funders, and clients. I can’t wait to see what we do next!”
PECC was founded by Pace Law Dean Emeritus Richard Ottinger. In recognition of his decades of service to the Center, numerous elected officials issued proclamations and letters of support commending him for his service, including Congressman Eliot L. Engel, New York State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins, New York State Assembly Members Amy R. Paulin, Steven Otis, and Thomas J. Abinanti, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, Chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators Benjamin Boykin, Westchester County Board of Legislator Catherine Parker, and Mayor of the City of White Plains Thomas Roach.
PECC is one of eight centers and institutes that are a part of the Pace Law campus. PECC is the leading Center working at the intersection of energy and the environment, engaging government decision makers and key stakeholders with robust research and analysis in law and policy. Over time, the Center has grown from its initial focus on energy regulatory law and policies to tackle transportation and fuels, as well as climate change mitigation and resilience. PECC directly engaged in complex regulatory proceedings in New York and several other states, and advocates successfully for policies to improve energy efficiency, advance renewable energy and distributed generation, account for environmental impacts in energy decisions, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
PECC is a critical part of Pace Law’s environmental law program, which is consistently ranked among the top in the country by “US News &World Report.” The Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University launched its environmental law program in 1978; it has long been ranked among the world’s leading university programs. Pace’s doctoral graduates teach environmental law at universities around the world. Pace’s J.D. alumni are prominent in environmental law firms, agencies and non-profit organizations across the U.S. and abroad.
About Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University
Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law (Pace Law) offers Juris Doctorate, Master of Laws, and Doctor of Juridical Science in Environmental Law degrees, as well as a series of joint degree programs. The school, housed on the University’s campus in White Plains, New York, opened its doors in 1976 and has over 8,500 alumni around the world. The school maintains a unique philosophy and approach to legal education that strikes an important balance between practice and theory. For more information visit http://law.pace.edu.
By Robert Habermann, Pace Energy and Climate Center 2017-2018 Equitable Access to Sustainable Energy Fellow
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (“LBNL”) recently released a report titled, Income Trends of Residential PV Adopters, that identifies a growing correlation between photovoltaic solar adoption and moderate-income households. This report also comes on the heels of a GTM Research and PowerScout study that revealed middle-income homeowners make up 70% of solar customers in California, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey. The developing data on solar adoption by moderate-income homes is positive news for the industry, for ratepayers and for states seeking to transition to more resilient and distributed grid. Yet, is a new dawn for the adoption of rooftop solar upon us? Maybe. One thing we can confidently discern: the data disproves the deceptive argument that solar is for the wealthy and that most households can’t afford to install rooftop panels.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, https://emp.lbl.gov/news/new-berkeley-lab-study-offers-insights-income.
Both reports recognize the importance of using the correct household-level data in the studies. Household-level data provides a more granular and accurate look at adoption trends while avoiding the zip-code level bias (i.e. extensive income variations within zip codes) that many “solar adoption” reports have utilized in the past. The LBNL report builds upon the GTM Research study by taking an even wider geographical scope, surveying 13 states of which this data is available for a majority of the market. The results clearly show a trend towards the adoption of solar by moderate-income households. If you look at Figure 2, the median income for PV adopters has declined from $100k in 2010 to $87k in 2016, while the income gap between PV adopters and owner-occupied households (“OO-HHs”) has dropped from 27% to 10% during that same time. LBNL notes in the report that the four highest-income states (CA, CT, DC and MA) have even reached “income party,” that the median income of OO-HHs is at or below the median income of PV adopters.
What is driving this trend towards PV adoption by moderate income households? LBNL offers a few ideas: The declining cost of PV solar, efforts by public institutions and solar firms to target low-to-moderate income (“LMI”) customers, third-party ownership models, and a general maturation of the market coupled with customer awareness. Yet, further measures can be taken to close the gap between PV adoption and income and secure more equitable access to the residential solar market.
The LBNL report highlights a few key elements that can be addressed:
- Finding: Home-ownership, which correlates with higher income, drives differences in PV adoption among income groups.
Recommendation: Solar policy needs to address the split-incentive issue to accommodate for renters and those living in multi-family buildings.
- Finding: LMI households have a higher rate of third-party ownership of their residential PV systems.
Recommendation: State policy should allow lease providers to take advantage of and pass along ownership incentives to LMI customers.
- Finding: Residential PV system size is notably smaller for LMI households.
Recommendation: Rate structures must be designed to recognize the value of solar to the grid and not simply incentivize higher electricity consumption.
It should also be noted that participation in a community shared solar project provides an avenue for LMI customers to obtain the benefits of solar without needing a rooftop system. Therefore, state policy should support regulations that promote development of community-based solar.
The Pace Energy and Climate Center is currently working on all of these issues in the Value of Distributed Energy Resources proceeding in New York State. The Center also continues to advocate for solar policy that serves LMI customers with written testimony submitted throughout the country in regulatory and rate-case proceedings.
Pace completed a brief on Puerto Rico’s opportunity to rebuild its grid in a manner that makes the island more resilient. We find that PREPA can take action now to lay a strong foundation for distributed energy resources (DER) to integrate with the transmission & distribution system, by making the right kind of capital equipment investments as it is being rebuilt. The future grid should be designed to accommodate far greater penetration of DER and ought to have the functionality to utilize DER as dynamic assets, supporting the grid. If PREPA fails to take actions to accommodate DER and beneficially utilize their grid support capabilities, it could face grid defection, and forego opportunities to significantly improve grid performance, productivity and system resiliency.
Pace strongly supports Puerto Rico’s integration of DER, renewable energy, and coordinated microgrids to utilize the natural resources of the island and manage an electrical grid that supplies the power needed. In partnership with IEEFA, we submitted comments to PREC on microgrids.
Pace has also been heavily engaged in this work throughout the Northeast. We promote knowledge of high efficiency combined heat and power as a back bone to microgrids in our region as the US DOE TAP by evaluating site screening and successful case studies. This work dovetails with our solar coalition work where we advocate for streamlined policies that facilitate and reduce the cost of integrating distributed energy resources to the existing electrical grid.
by Thomas G. Bourgeois, Deputy Director
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are fresh in our minds. We read of the homes, businesses, healthcare facilities the customers numbering in the millions who were without power. Although unpleasant for most, not having power, heating and cooling can be fatal for some.
In Hollywood Hills, Florida, New York Times reported deaths of 8 residents at The Rehabilitation Center, where air conditioning systems failed due to a power outage. This stands as a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining continuous energy services for certain vulnerable populations and for high priority services. When the power is out at hospitals, nursing homes, assisted and senior living, large multifamily and public housing complexes, there are few good options. One approach that has succeeded time and again in the past is an onsite, combined heat and power (CHP) system that has been constructed to run during grid outages.
Properly designed, configured, and operated combined heat and power (CHP) systems can provide power, heating and cooling to buildings during energy outages of extended duration, as was delivered during Super Storm Sandy. Pace Energy and Climate Center discusses in Powering Through Storms, natural gas (generally not affected by storms) powered CHP is capable of delivering energy services so that the site remains comfortable, habitable, and functional.
At businesses, campuses, healthcare centers, and multifamily complexes where energy demands are suited, well-designed CHP systems can be smart, cost saving investments. They offer a suite of benefits, well beyond cost savings, that are often overlooked. An important benefit of a CHP system is the resiliency the building and its occupants can depend on. Post Katrina, Sandy, and now Post Harvey and Irma It’s time that decision makers account for the reliability that a CHP system offers them when making investments in buildings.
The resiliency value of CHP has been well documented in “Combined Heat and Power: Enabling Resilient Energy Infrastructure for Critical Facilities” prepared for Oak Ridge National Labs 14 case studies from around the country describe the performance of CHP systems during emergency events. When disasters, like hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Sandy, Katrina, and others, strike we are all reminded of the enormous economic, personal, and social value of operating hardy buildings. The ability to withstand and recover from a storm is particularly important for critical infrastructure facilities, such as hospitals and wastewater treatment plants, or in residential complexes where vulnerable populations–the elderly, the infirm, and the very young—are best served by a “safe in place” strategy to the extent possible.
It would behoove anyone charged with making investments to value the resiliency of buildings, especially critical infrastructure. The investment in combined heat and power generates economic returns and environmental benefits over the long run. By also valuing building resiliency, CHP becomes an ever more attractive, yet far too often overlooked investment for a broad class of buildings.
New York’s Community Distributed Generation (CDG) program is a promising resource in the toolbox for helping low- and moderate-income customers tap into renewable energy, but the program has some limitations. In its present form, residential CDG projects must have a minimum of ten members in order to qualify under the program, which leaves out many New York buildings with fewer than ten units.
The New York Public Service Commission on July 17, 2015, issued an order establishing a Community Distributed Generation (CDG) program. The order allows, by use of net metering, customers who do not have renewable energy generators on their own property to participate directly in off-site projects. For low-income customers, apartment-dwellers, and renters whom may not be able to install solar on their own homes, the initiative allows them to benefit in shared solar projects hence providing a more affordable and clean energy option.
Besides having the requirement of at least 10 members and each member being allocated at least 1,000kWh per year, CDG projects must also:
(1) be a net metered generation facility located behind a host meter and interconnected to a major electric distribution, and utility;
(2) have a project sponsor who is responsible for: operating and maintaining the project; development of the project; managing the customers and subscription of new customers, and coordinate with the utility to provide customer information and allocate customer credits.
The CDG program is empowering local communities to use clean energy which overall is a more economical and an environmental friendly option. While the program is a very positive step in the right direction, there is still room for improvement. The City of New York, Solar One, GRID Alternatives, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Association for Energy Affordability, and Environmental Defense Fund on September 1st, 2016 filed a petition to waive the current ten-member minimum for Community Distributed Generation projects located on projects with multiple residential units. The Petitioners take issue that, with “recent changes in the solar market and technological advances in project design,” the ten-member minimum is a barrier to the adoption of solar. On-site deployment installations are “more viable because of concurrent design innovations that allow city buildings to minimize limits to allowable rooftop solar capacity brought about by compliance with local fire and building codes.” Ultimately, waiving the ten minimum membership would increase low and moderate income customers’ access to solar energy.
Further, the Petitioners argue that the membership requirement is tailored for larger buildings and denies CDG benefits to many multi-unit residential or mixed-use buildings with fewer than ten metered tenants, smaller households, and the Housing Development Fund Corporations (HDFCs). Article XI of the Private Housing Finance Law (PHFL) makes provision for affordable homeownership and housing options to households fewer than ten through HDFCs.
The Pace Energy and Climate Center supports the Petition to waive the ten-member minimum requirement. The benefits of Community Distributed Generation are manifold. It makes clean distributed generation accessible to electric customers who, due to financial and property related reasons, are not capable of supporting traditional onsite generation. Additionally, for low and moderate income households that rent their homes and physically cannot support onsite generation, it offers a pathway for these households to control their energy future and participate in the clean energy economy being fostered by New York State. Pace strongly believes that waiving the 10-member minimum requirement for properties with multiple residential units will serve to help New York State to meet its ambitious clean energy goals set forth in innovative programs and initiatives including the Clean Energy Standard (CES), Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), and NY-Sun Program.
The CDG program is by design progressive and should be lauded for its ingenuity in the renewable energy sector. However, to achieve its objective of expanding the opportunities to purchase and share solar, the membership minimum requirement should be modified to apply to at least three members. This will encompass more communities living in New York state whether in larger buildings or smaller multi-family buildings and would additionally tap into high-density urban areas where transmission and distribution constraints are greatest.
One day after announcing that the Indian Point nuclear power plant will close by 2021
, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced New York’s commitment to develop up to 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030–enough to power 1.25 million homes, which will help New York meet its Clean Energy Standard goal of obtaining 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. The commitment is also important when considering that Indian Point supplies 25 percent of New York City’s electricity load, and 10 percent of the state’s load.
The state’s offshore wind development is already underway, through a proposed 90-megawatt project off the coast of Long Island developed by Deepwater Wind (“Deepwater”). Located 30 miles southeast of Montauk, this will be the nation’s largest offshore wind farm. Deepwater is responsible for the country’s first wind farm (Block Island, in Rhode Island) and already owns the lease area in New York, but the project is yet to be approved by the Long Island Power Authority (“LIPA”).
In addition, in December, Statoil Wind US LLC won a federal auction to lease an area off of the Rockaway Peninsula for a development that would accommodate 800 megawatts of offshore wind.
Finally, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (“NYSERDA”) is preparing the Offshore Wind Master Plan (“the Plan”), a comprehensive guide for offshore wind activities in the state, expected to be completed by the end of 2017. The Plan will include: site identification, assessment, and characterization; cost–benefit analysis; grid and interconnection studies; mechanisms for the purchase and sale of the energy to be produced; stakeholders and community engagement; and mitigation efforts.
With numerous and evident benefits, offshore wind can be crucial within a diverse portfolio of renewable sources. As Cuomo noted, “New York’s unparalleled commitment to offshore wind power will create new, high-paying jobs, reduce our carbon footprint, establish a new, reliable source of energy for millions of New Yorkers, and solidify New York’s status as a national clean energy leader.”