Public Service Commission Requests Comment on Community Host Benefit Program for Renewable Energy Projects

New York’s new renewable energy siting process requires renewable energy project developers provide a “host community benefit” to a municipality where a project is proposed to be sited. That benefit may be:

(1) “a discount or credit on the utility bills of the utility’s customers in a renewable host community, or a compensatory or environmental benefit to such customers” as determined by the Public Service Commission (PSC);

(2) “such other project as determined by the [State renewable energy siting office]”; or

(3) “as subsequently agreed to between the applicant and the host community.”

The PSC initiated a proceeding on May 29, 2020 seeking comments by July 3, 2020 on the program to provide discounts or credits on utility bills or compensatory or environmental benefits for customers within host communities.

PSC requests input into aspects of the utility credit or environmental benefit program, including the structure of the benefit program, whether it should be a one–time/single year credit or a multi–year benefit, and the cost to renewable energy developers of the proposed benefit. The comments are intended to inform a detailed community host benefit program to be proposed by the New York Department of Public Service (DPS). There will be another opportunity to comment on the DPS community host benefit program once it is developed.

While it is important for municipalities to provide input into the PSC portion of the host community benefit program under the new renewable energy siting law, the regulations associated with the other two options for host community benefits will likely have a greater impact on host communities. No regulations or guidance have yet been proposed on either the projects to be proposed by the renewable energy siting office or private agreements between the developer and host community. Indeed, the interaction between the community benefits offered through the PSC, the renewable energy siting office, and the agreements reached by the project developers and host communities will be key. Will a developer be able to avoid negotiating host agreements with host municipalities (the current typical practice) by agreeing to participate in the PSC program or by agreeing to a project proposed renewable energy siting office? This interplay will impact host communities. Therefore, it is critical that host communities participate in the rulemaking for the renewable energy siting process.

Stay tuned.