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Environmental Groups to Cuomo: Use RGGI Dollars for Solar Grants

Community solar can help low-income New Yorkers get all the benefits of clean energy. (Andrewglaser/English Wikipedia)
Community solar can help low-income New Yorkers get all the benefits of clean energy. (Andrewglaser/English Wikipedia)
March 30, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. – Environmental advocates want money from state climate pollution reduction efforts to fund direct grants for community solar.

The state Assembly's budget bill would dedicate $23 million collected through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI for grants to bring solar power to low-income and environmental justice communities.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to make that same amount available as tax credits that would otherwise be supported by the state's General Fund.

According to Shiva Prakash, an Equal Justice Works fellow at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, using the money for tax credits would limit who gets the funds.

"You need a substantial tax burden in order to benefit from that, and low-income utility customers often don't have that sort of tax burden to actually get that kind of benefit," she points out.

RGGI funds are collected through capping CO2 emissions and selling pollution credits to reduce the state's overall CO2 emissions.

The state budget is due on April 1.

Prakash notes that the state Senate's budget proposal is even more extreme, taking $108 million of RGGI money and lumping it into the General Fund without designating a specific clean energy use for it.

"That really is just what we would consider a raid of RGGI funds that are supposed to be dedicated to stimulate the clean energy markets and economy in the state," she states.

Environmental justice communities and low-income New Yorkers often can't afford the initial investment to benefit from solar power, including selling power back to utility companies.

Prakash adds that Cuomo has said he wants to ensure that all New Yorkers can reap the benefits of solar power.

"It's really important that those words are said and those commitments are made by policy makers, but if we don't have the actual money behind that, then it doesn't really mean much," she stresses.

A letter signed by 58 organizations asks the governor and legislators to include the Assembly proposal for direct grants in the final budget.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY