New York has a plan to make solar energy affordable. But dealerships can't figure out how to charge customers (2023)

Thomas C. ZambitoNew York State team

New York's overall effort to expand solar power use is being hampered by utilities that can't master the one task needed to make it work — calculating the bill.

Nearly eight years ago, New York paved the way for local photovoltaic schemes that offered discounted energy bills to state residents who agreed to get their electricity from a nearby field of solar panels.

It has been touted as a route to clean energy for low- and middle-income residents who may not have the money or desire to put solar panels on their roofs.

But interviews with customers, solar business owners and state and local officials reveal that the program, officially known as Community Distributed Generation, struggles to keep customers frustrated with excessive fees, charges that should be credits and bills that come in months old. delay.

This is just one ofnumerous problems with consumer pricesthat have involved New York dealerships in recent months. Estimated meter readings and customer service issues are leaving utility customers from Rochester to Westchester County facing unexplained exorbitant bills.

usability fiasco:The $345 utility bill was $68,000 when NYSEG, RG&E went into a billing fiasco. What happened?

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Itakian expected a return on his investment in solar energy, he was left with regret

In 2019, David Weiner purchased a solar farm near his home in Ithaca. Given the tax breaks and other incentives, it seemed like a worthwhile investment.

Then the billing problems with New York State's electricity and gas began.

"It was a huge source of frustration for me," Weiner said. “NYSEG payouts are a nightmare. Sometimes we get two bills in a month, two to three weeks apart, and then we can go a month and a half without an account."

Weiner's plan differed from most community solar programs in that it required him to purchase solar panels located on a farm in Candor. Other programs offer customers discounts on their monthly subscription bills.

With bills that aren't transparent or arrive months later, Weiner says it's been hard for him to tell if he's saving money.

"It was a mess"

Wilbur Card signed up for the community solar program in February 2022. He was promised a 10% credit on his monthly electricity bill from a field of solar panels installed near his home in Beaver Dams, north of Elmira.

By November, after nine months of frustration, Card had had enough. He decided to drop the plan after receiving NYSEG bills that were several months overdue. And he got a separate monthly bill from the solar company.

"I got the bill in December, but it was the electricity that was consumed in September," Card said. “I could never marry these two to know if I'm getting any benefit. It was a mess. I told them I never want to see another (account).

He decided to install solar panels on his roof in November, but that did little to solve his charging problems.

"I don't know what happened," said Card, who is retired and living in Florida this winter. “I never had any problems with NYSEG. But it all seemed to start when I signed the solar contract."

Cities across the state that have partnered with solar companies say they are no longer introducing residents to the plan.

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“Many of our residents are seniors on fixed incomes and cannot afford these one-off payments,” New Lebanon city leaders wrote to the Public Service Commission this month. "These issues have forced New Lebanon to withhold future Community Solar offerings until pricing issues are resolved."

Solar companies are pushing to hold utilities accountable

Photovoltaic companies are pressuring the state to take action against utilities, imposing penalties or fines.

Arcadia, the nation's largest community solar program, has approximately 150 projects in New York City with approximately 80,000 individual customers.

Austin Perea, the company's director of policy in New York, asked the state's Public Utility Commission, which oversees the media, to make the rate the benchmark by which the media can be judged when asking for interest rate hikes.

"It doesn't make it harder to get customers every year," Perea said of pricing issues. “However, it actually makes it more difficult to retain customers. If you have been involved in a community photovoltaic project and had a bad experience due to utility bills and credit issues, you are unlikely to recommend this product to others. So these issues certainly have a secondary impact on the reputation of the community solar program that is now starting to emerge.”

Other company officials declined to comment on the registration, fearing it would cast a negative light on the program.

"The solar community is expanding access to clean energy by offering a zero down payment with guaranteed savings to anyone who pays their electricity bill," said Jonathan Cohen, director of policy for the Solar Energy Industries Association of New York, a trade group . “Unfortunately, public services have not done their job in delaying much needed bill savings for working families.

The state has defended the solar program, saying it offers low- and middle-income families who may not own homes access to the energy savings that renewable energy can provide.

But a smooth media billing process is critical - "Proper and timely execution of the media billing and crediting processes for these programs is paramount to ensuring their success," said PSC spokesman James Denn.

The $250 million program has seen exponential growth in recent years, establishing New York as the nation's leading solar market.

Dealerships face many pricing issues

Solar pricing issues arise as state utilities grapple with a host of other pricing issues and state investigations.

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PSC in Decembera devastating report has been releasedon the launch of the $88 million Central Hudson Gas and Electric billing system in September 2021.

A six-month investigation revealed that around 8,000 customers were overcharged and another 1,000 were double charged.

The state's Department of Public Service is investigating NYSEG/RG&E after an increase in customer complaints following the introduction of a new billing system in September.

A state investigation linked some of thepublic utility problemsfor estimated meter readings.

In both investigations, the state found that utility billing systems appeared unable to process complex bills such as solar and renewable energy bills.

NYSEG/RG&E plans to hire more customer service personnel and meter readers and will increase use of "smart meters" to reduce customer bill estimates.

The PSC is considering a series of fines and penalties to force energy companies to address solar pricing issues.

The PSC is also pushing utilities to create a single bill for solar customers and is calling for a switch to automated billing, which is likely to eliminate customer billing errors.

Most state utilities use a manual system for billing customers. Only Orange & Rockland has established an automated community solar billing system, according to state records.

Report:Report Hits Central Hudson for Accidentally Dropping an $88 Million Settlement System

Will automatic billing fix solar charging failure?

Central Hudson and NYSEG/RG&E say they are working to automate the billing system.

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About five percent of the tool's customers participate in the CDG.

"CDG pricing is incredibly complex," said Hudson Central spokesman Joseph Jenkins. "One of the reasons Central Hudson adopted a new billing platform was to support CDG accounts and other nontraditional billing scenarios that were previously calculated manually."

The tool was able to automate about half of their CDG accounts - those that receive separate accounts from Central Hudson and the CDG provider.

“Unfortunately, the transition to a new pricing platform was fraught with many challenges. Significant progress has been made since then,” said Jenkins.

Calculations for single account customers are still done manually. "We continue to work on automating these accounts and implementing other improvements to automatically credit these customers," said Jenkins. "We dedicate a significant number of employees to processing these manual accounts."

NYSEG/RG&E spokeswoman Alexis Arnold said the company expects to introduce a new automated billing process by May "to ensure the timely issuance of community distributed generation bills and solar credits."

“This new technology will eliminate the manual billing process used by utilities participating in the solar credit program,” he added.

Weiner, who has a background in computer software development, struggles to understand why it took so long.

"The technology is in place," he said.

He recently called his solar company to let them know he might have a solution. He didn't call back.

Thomas C. Zambito is a staff reporter for the USA Today Network in upstate New York. He can be reached at

(Video) Is Solar Worth It? My experience after two years owning Solar Panels


Are solar companies ripping you off? ›

Solar panel scams are sometimes as simple as a contractor offering you a deal that seems too good to be true. Most likely, they'll happily pocket your money and leave you empty-handed or install faulty equipment. Some installers may advertise “free” solar panels as part of a contract.

Will New York State pay for solar panels? ›

New York State solar tax credit. The NY State Solar Energy System Equipment Tax Credit is a mouthful, but it's also one of the best state solar tax credits in the country. The tax credit is worth 25% of the installed cost of your system or $5,000 – whichever is less.

Is solar worth it in NY? ›

In most cases, yes, solar will save a significant amount of money. Solar panels produce electricity and reduce how much power you have to purchase from your electric company. The typical homeowner in New York State pays around $110.47 per month for power.

How can I avoid getting scammed out of solar power? ›

How To Avoid Solar Scams
  1. Ask relevant questions: Ask about panel efficiency and output. ...
  2. Avoid high-pressure salespeople: Anyone trying to get you to immediately sign a contract is in it for the money. ...
  3. Research each solar company: Don't take any salesperson's word for it—find out for yourself.
May 15, 2023

Do people regret going solar? ›

Some solar panel regrets arise due to the high cost of replacing damaged solar panels, degradation, or the cost of repairing the components. Many new homeowners consider buying a house with leased solar panels as solar panels are the most cost-effective renewable energy source.

What is the biggest downside to solar electricity? ›

Cons of Solar Energy
  • High Cost of Solar Panels. ...
  • Sunlight Dependent. ...
  • Installation Can Be Difficult. ...
  • Space Constraints. ...
  • Solar Energy Storage Is Expensive. ...
  • Environmental Impact of Manufacturing. ...
  • Difficulty With Relocation. ...
  • Scarcity of Materials.
Jan 5, 2023

Is solar exempt from property tax in NY? ›

The Clean Energy Systems Exemption offered by New York State Real Property Tax Law (RPTL) Section 487 encourages the installation of certain energy systems in residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial applications, including solar, wind, and energy storage, among other eligible technologies.

Can you get solar panels for free in NY? ›

New York is one of the only states that offer Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) for solar energy. A Solar PPA is an agreement between you and a New York solar company. The solar energy company agrees to install solar panels on your home or business at no cost to you.

How much would it cost for an average homeowner in New York state to install solar power equipment in their home? ›

The cost of home solar in New York State
Cost per WattCost for 7.67 kW system
Quotes factoring in average discrepancy$5.11$39,168
LBNL mean average January 2022$3.96$30,373
LBNL mean average 2021$2.58$19,794
2 more rows
Mar 10, 2023

Will solar get cheaper in 2023? ›

Solar costs are very likely to decrease in 2023, making rooftop renewables affordable for more homeowners. In November 2022, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) published its analysis of the cost of solar and energy storage (battery) system installations for the first quarter of 2022.

Is solar worth it financially? ›

In most cases, installing residential solar panels is worth it. Solar panels typically last 25 years or more and can dramatically reduce or even eliminate your electricity bills — you can save an average of $1,346 annually on energy bills by going solar. Solar is a large upfront investment.

Do solar panels extend the life of your roof? ›

Can solar panels make your roof last longer? Actually, yes! When you install solar panels, , they act as a stellar protectant for your roof, which can actually extend its life.

Do you get money back from using solar energy? ›

What are the residential solar tax credit amounts? Installing renewable energy equipment on your home can qualify you for Residential Clean Energy credit of up to 30% of your total qualifying cost, depending on the year the equipment is installed and placed in service. After 2034, the credit is scheduled to end.

Is there a negative to solar panels? ›

Transportation and installation of solar systems have been associated with the emission of greenhouse gases. There are also some toxic materials and hazardous products used during the manufacturing process of solar photovoltaic systems, which can indirectly affect the environment.

Why are so many people against solar? ›

Many people are against them because they think they take up too much space, they can be an eyesore, and they can impact property values. In addition, solar farms can interfere with farming and other land uses, be a danger to wildlife, and create a lot of heat – both in the daytime and at night.

Why don't people switch to solar? ›

While people in sunny climes can use solar energy when the sun shines and bank it in batteries for times when it doesn't, not everyone has that capability. Because our current, aging electrical grid can't presently distribute renewable energy over long distances, solar isn't available everywhere.

Do solar panels damage roof? ›

Solar panels can cause roofing materials to deteriorate faster due to the extra weight, and they can also create an extra load on your home's cooling system. However, if installed and maintained properly, solar panels should not damage your roof.

What are 5 bad things about solar energy? ›

The Top 5 Disadvantages of Solar Energy
  • Solar Panel Installations Can Be Expensive. ...
  • Solar Energy Doesn't Work at Night. ...
  • Solar Energy Storage is Expensive. ...
  • Solar Panels are Difficult to Move Once Installed. ...
  • Some Solar Panels Use Rare Earth Metals.

Does having solar panels increase home insurance? ›

You may not see an increase in your homeowners insurance premium after installing solar panels on your roof. However, you'll likely need to raise your coverage limits to account for the replacement cost of your solar panels, which will likely result in some increase to your premium.

Why can't solar panels be more efficient? ›

Some photons that hit a solar cell are reflected away from the cell's surface. Out of those photons that are absorbed, some have their energy turned into heat in a process of internal recombination instead of producing electric current. These efficiency losses are inevitable.

At what age do you stop paying property taxes in New York State? ›

Age eligibility

Each of the owners of the property must be 65 years of age or over, unless the owners are: husband and wife, or. siblings (having at least one common parent) and. one of the owners is at least 65.

How do I not pay property tax in NY? ›

To receive a property tax exemption, the property's title must be in the name of a nonprofit organization. The applicant organization must be the owner, and the property must be used for an exempt purpose. The types of properties which may be eligible include properties that: are used for religious services.

Is there sales tax on solar panels in NY? ›

Retail sales and installations of commercial solar energy equipment are exempt from the 4% New York State sales and use tax rate and the 3/8 % sales and use tax rate imposed in the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District (MCTD).

What is the NYS solar incentive for 2023? ›

NY-Sun Initiative Megawatt Block Program

The incentive rate for home solar systems is $0.20 per watt in the Con Edison service territory (New York City), and $0.30 per watt in upstate regions.

How do I claim my solar tax credit in NY? ›

In order to claim the Solar Tax Credit, you will need to fill out form IT-255 when you file your taxes. You can find the latest version of form IT-255 here on There are other incentives available for New York homeowners who use renewable energy and solar including the following: NY-Sun Incentive.

How much does it cost to go solar in NY? ›

Solar Panel Cost FAQs

How much do solar panels cost in NY? In New York, the cost of solar projects is typically between $10,000 and $25,000 depending on preference and energy needs. Cost varies based on regional incentives, system size, aesthetic preferences, energy needs, and local codes, among other factors.

How long do solar panels last? ›

Solar panels, also known as photovoltaic or PV panels, are made to last more than 25 years. In fact, many solar panels installed as early as the 1980s are still working at expected capacity. Not only are solar panels remarkably reliable, solar panel longevity has increased dramatically over the last 20 years.

How many solar panels would it take to power New York? ›

How Many Solar Panels To Power the U.S. By State
StateNumber of HouseholdsHow Many Solar Panels?
New Mexico797,59619,939,900
New York7,530,150188,253,750
North Carolina4,034,684100,867,100
North Dakota316,5427,913,550
6 more rows
Apr 7, 2023

How much value do solar panels add to a house? ›

The study found that each watt of solar added an average of $4 to the home's value in California and an average of $3 per watt elsewhere.

How long does it take for solar panels to pay for themselves? ›

The most common estimate of the average payback period for solar panels is six to ten years. This is a pretty wide range because there are many factors that will influence the number of years it can take to pay off your panels and the monthly savings you can expect.

Will solar price go down? ›

In 2023, solar panels in the U.S. cost about $20,650 on average down from more than $50,000 10 years ago. In this article, we'll break down the cost of solar by system size, state, and panel brand, all of which can significantly impact the final number you pay.

Will solar become 35 cheaper by 2024? ›

1. Solar Will Become 35% Cheaper By 2024. When the sun shines onto a solar panel, energy from the sunlight is absorbed by the PV cells in the panel. This energy creates electrical charges that move in response to an internal electrical field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.

How many solar panels does it take to run a house off the grid? ›

To meet the average requirement of 29.33 kWh of electricity per day for your household, then, you'll need 17 solar panels. Of course, this is just one example. To find out how many solar panels it would take to power your off-grid system, schedule a consultation with SouthFace Solar & Electric.

Why is solar so expensive? ›

Solar panels cost a lot of money because of the price of raw materials like silicon and lithium. Solar panels also require advanced manufacturing and may have complicated installations. However, the high upfront cost of solar panels is offset by long-term savings.

How much money does solar actually save? ›

But just how much money can solar panels save homeowners each year? You could save around $1,346 on annual energy bills — based on a 6 kilowatt (kW) home solar system generating 9,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy and the average national electricity price of 14.96 cents per kWh.

What happens to solar panels at the end of their lifespan? ›

Key takeaways about the lifetime of solar panels

Solar panels usually last for 25 to 30 years. Over their lifetime, panels very slowly degrade, meaning they may produce less and less electricity. Your solar panel's performance or power warranty can help you estimate how long your solar panels will last.

Do solar panels make your roof hot? ›

Solar Panels Help Insulate Your Roof

The research also indicates that the panels reduce heat by about 38% and lower the temperature in your attic and the rooms directly below the roof by about 5 degrees.

What if we put solar panels on every roof? ›

California alone could generate 74% of its electricity. Creative Commons Lic. A federal study has revealed that if Americans installed solar panels on every roof, it would supply 39% of the total power used by the U.S.

Do you have to owe taxes to get the solar tax credit? ›

In short, you must owe at least as much money in taxes as the amount of your credit in order to receive the full amount of that solar tax credit.

How many times can you claim solar tax credit? ›

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

You can claim the solar tax credit only once.

How many years can you roll over solar tax credit? ›

While you can't use the tax credit to receive money back from the IRS, you can roll the tax credit back one year and carry the credit forward for up to five years. For example, if you didn't owe federal taxes last year, you can still claim the credit on this year's tax return.

What leaches out of solar panels? ›

Solar panel waste can include heavy metals such as silver, lead, arsenic and cadmium that – at certain levels – may be classified as hazardous waste.

What is the biggest problem with solar? ›

The Disadvantages of Solar Energy

One of the biggest problems that solar energy technology poses is that energy is only generated while the sun is shining. That means nighttime and overcast days can interrupt the supply.

What is a major disadvantage of solar power? ›

High initial costs for material and installation and long ROI (however, with the reduction in the cost of solar over the last 10 years, solar is becoming more cost feasible every day) Needs lots of space as efficiency is not 100% yet. No solar power at night so there is a need for a large battery bank.

What are 3 drawbacks to storing solar energy in batteries? ›

Disadvantages of A Solar Battery
  • Energy Storage is Expensive. The cost of energy storage is quite high and can quite easily increase the cost of your solar PV system substantially. ...
  • Increased Complexity of Your Solar System. ...
  • Increased Maintenance For Your Solar. ...
  • Lifespan of Home Battery.
May 3, 2018

Is solar better than Electric? ›

Although solar equipment can be more expensive initially, the main reason that people choose solar power instead of electricity is the cost savings. Solar energy is very efficient and able to pay back the cost of installation over a number of years.

How do I get out of a bad solar contract? ›

The three typical ways to get out of a solar lease are to:
  1. Solar lease buyout – Buy out the remaining part of the solar lease or keep making monthly payments. ...
  2. Purchase the solar PV system in its entirety at market price.
  3. Transfer your solar lease agreement.

Why do so many solar companies fail? ›

In fact, there are over 700 solar installation companies that are in the process of being liquidated or already have been since 2011. Many of these solar companies failed because they were unable to deliver high quality work to their customers and could not operate profitably.

Can I negotiate with solar company? ›

You can always negotiate with your contractor on the price of a successful project before signing a contract. Discuss your budget with your solar contractor. Agree that any unexpected project expenses will be presented in writing to help you remain within your budget.

Do solar panels void homeowners insurance? ›

Most rooftop solar energy systems are covered by standard homeowners policies, which doesn't change your insurance plan. However, you may need to increase the amount of coverage on your home to account for the cost of the system which can then raise your premium.

What happens if I don't want my solar panels anymore? ›

Buyout: In this case, you can prepay the balance on the remaining lease and have the solar panels either removed or left on the house. Most solar leasing companies do include a buyout period and price in their agreement.

Is there a lawsuit against SunRun? ›

SunRun Inc. has been hit with a class action lawsuit alleging the San-Francisco-based solar energy company deceived consumers into leasing SunRun solar panels by making misleading claims about their cost savings and about the increasing costs of electricity.

How long do solar panels take to pay for themselves? ›

The most common estimate of the average payback period for solar panels is six to ten years. This is a pretty wide range because there are many factors that will influence the number of years it can take to pay off your panels and the monthly savings you can expect.

Is solar energy becoming cheaper? ›

According to a recent study, solar energy is expected to become even cheaper in the coming years, with costs projected to fall by as much as 60% by 2030.

Why is everyone not going solar? ›

Why Doesn't Everyone Have Home Solar? Once solar technology became efficient enough to reliably generate enough power for the average homeowner to consumer, the adoption of solar exploded in 2008. This rapid growth is the primary reason most homeowners in California have not gone solar.

What is one reason solar panels are actually bad? ›

Disadvantages of Solar Energy. Lack of access to direct sunlight is the most obvious problem among the disadvantages of solar energy. Though photovoltaic systems can absorb indirect sunlight, sunlight that is obscured by clouds, pollution, or heavy dust, indirect sunlight yields far less energy than direct sunlight.

Why are so many people against solar farms? ›

Many people are against them because they think they take up too much space, they can be an eyesore, and they can impact property values. In addition, solar farms can interfere with farming and other land uses, be a danger to wildlife, and create a lot of heat – both in the daytime and at night.

How much commission do solar salesman make? ›

Solar Sales Reps: $50K base + $350-$500 per KW (depending on price sold) Solar Sales Reps: $50K base + flat $1000 per sale. Solar Sales Reps: $40K base + 3% of sales price. Solar Sales Reps: $500 gas bonus after selling 2 deals.

What should I ask a solar salesman? ›

10 Questions to Ask Before Going Solar
  • Why should I go solar? ...
  • Is my house right for solar? ...
  • Is my electricity bill high enough to justify going solar? ...
  • How should I finance my panels? ...
  • How much does solar cost? ...
  • How much money will I save with solar? ...
  • What type of panels should I be looking for?
Sep 9, 2022

What happens to a solar company that goes out of business? ›

When a solar leasing company goes bankrupt, the liquidation process treats your lease contract like an asset. Therefore, other solar companies will look to acquire those assets for a price that make them profit over the long term.


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