On July 20th, the World Economic Forum in collaboration with the New York Governor’s office, organized a workshop focused on New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. A number of leading energy professionals participated, including representatives from the utility sector, capital markets experts, as well as current and former state utility regulators. Participants worked together to craft practical policy recommendations designed to advance the various REV goals.
Participants discussed approaches utilities could take to engage low and moderate income (LMI) customers. Currently, New York has 2.3 million LMI households, representing one-third of the state’s population. At current funding levels, state weatherization programs are only capable of addressing approximately 20,000 households per year. While government programs designed to help LMI communities like the federally-funded Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and NYSERDA’s Empower program are important, innovative approaches that work within the REV framework will also be necessary to advance the REV goal of addressing the LMI population’s energy burden and bringing the full benefits of New York’s clean energy transition to LMI communities.
In response to some of these challenges, participants discussed policies intended to encourage utilities to engage LMI communities differently than they already do. Although REV prohibits investor owned utilities (IOUs) from owning distributed energy resources (DER), a carve out exists that allows utilities to own DERs intended to serve LMI communities. This approach could increase utilities’ engagement with LMI communities by helping them overcome significant barriers like credit requirements for financing or leasing of DERs. LMI communities would also potentially benefit from a lower energy burden while utilities would further REV objectives by generating electricity from clean sources, improving overall grid resiliency, reducing congestion in certain grid-constrained areas, and decreasing utility bill arrears and charge-offs.
Note: OurEnergyPolicy.org does not endorse or support one policy recommendation over another. OEP collaborated with WEF for this workshop simply to bring energy professionals together to create focused dialogue and an exchange of ideas.