Solar Customers Say Con Ed Still Not Crediting Them for Power Generated
More than a year after the electric utility promised to pay renewable energy subscribers for overdue credits, thousands of customers are not getting what is owed.
Con Ed customers who take part in community solar energy programs continue to be plagued by inconsistent discounts on their electric bills.
Last year, THE CITY reported on a Con Ed snafu that left community solar subscribers either without the full credits they were owed or without any credits at all. Con Ed promised to fix the problems, but they persist, even after state regulators stepped in.
Customers can subscribe to solar projects that may be installed either on their building or somewhere other than where they live. Community solar customers earn credits on their monthly electric bills from the energy generated via the project.
Of Con Ed’s nearly 17,000 community solar customers, almost 30% — about 5,000 of them — have at least two months of credits owed, according to data compiled by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and obtained by THE CITY.
Con Ed is working to automate the billing and crediting for customers and plans to launch a new system in September, according to a June document the company filed with the state Public Service Commission.
Of the customers whose accounts are not current, just under 4,000 are on an automated system, which means they “are receiving regular bill credits as we bring them up to date,” Con Ed spokesperson Allan Drury said.
“We continue to reduce the backlog through automation and the work of the additional people we have assigned to this matter,” he added.
Noah Ginsburg, executive director of the solar trade group New York Solar Energy Industries Association, says he hopes a resolution comes soon.
“Community solar is one of the most accessible ways for people to participate in clean energy and also to lower their bills,” Ginsburg said. “It does work, and we really just need the utilities to do their part.”
With recent rate hikes in place that generate higher electric bills, “bill savings for customers are more important now than ever before,” Ginsburg added.
No Electric Bill
Community solar allows apartment renters — who have no say about whether to put solar panels on their buildings — to benefit from solar energy, and also helps apartment owners, who can split the cost of panels with other owners in their building.
Annabelle Heckler, a Brooklyn resident and shareholder in an affordable co-op in Crown Heights, said she appreciates the perks of being a community solar subscriber, not least because it saves her money.
Heckler’s co-op installed solar panels on its roof in 2018. The project lowers the electric bill for the building’s common areas. Credits generated are split among the eight residential units.
“The project was amazing,” she said. “For the brief period where Con Ed was crediting us properly, we didn’t pay an electric bill at all.”
In the spring of 2022, Con Ed stopped providing credits for over a year, and the utility only recently began crediting what was owed. The utility company said the building is fully caught up.
Heckler said her frustration is tied to her enthusiasm for solar and the promise of locally generated renewable energy.
“We want to build a city that’s resilient and works for everyone, and we can all have — no matter whether we’re in affordable housing or luxury condos — roofs with solar,” she said. “We’re showing that we can do it, but then Con Ed is dragging its feet.”
Heckler isn’t the only disgruntled customer plagued by the crediting issues. The manager of a property in Kew Gardens, Queens, that has solar panels on the roof told THE CITY that residents have not received their credits for over five months. A Manhattan resident who subscribed to community solar also complained of irregular crediting over the past year.
Even the New York City Housing Authority, which is expanding solar on NYCHA developments’ rooftops, has had to reckon with Con Ed’s unsteady crediting.
“We will continue working with our partners with the expectation that credits will be current across all rooftops very soon,” said NYCHA spokesperson Michael Horgan.
The New York Solar Energy Industries Association submitted a formal complaint last year to the Public Service Commission, which regulates Con Ed.
Now the Commission is reviewing the crediting and billing issues associated with Con Ed and other electric utility companies’ community solar programs. The PSC is drawing up a proposal to establish performance metrics associated with accurate, timely crediting for the utilities — and provide penalties for missing those targets.