New York City Proposes First-Ever Mandatory Solar Deployment for City's 4,000 Municipal Buildings; Permitting Delays Remain Largest Obstacle to Solar Initiatives
Sullivan & Worcester Attorney Advises Council to Streamline Permit Procedures at Buildings and Fire Departments and Create Special Solar Authority to Advance City’s Goals
New York, NY—January 15, 2016—Merrill L. Kramer, head of the Sustainable Energy Practice at Sullivan & Worcester LLP, was asked to testify at a hearing of the New York City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection on a breakthrough bill to mandate installation of solar power systems on all municipal buildings.
In addition to his decades-long energy regulatory and finance law practice experience, Mr. Kramer served as a principal attorney on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Cogeneration and Small Power Production Task Force, and he outlined for Committee members the obstacles facing the de Blasio Administration in achieving its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Mr. Kramer called the Mayor’s One City: Built to Last initiative "pro-active and far-sighted," pointing out that "it will result in lower energy costs, cleaner air, improved health and greater energy security for New York City and its surrounding environs."
The biggest challenges to deploying solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in New York City, according to Mr. Kramer, are delays and bottlenecks at the Department of Buildings (DOB) and New York City Fire Department (FDNY) for obtaining permit approvals, and the lack of a "one-stop shop" decision-making authority to identify problems and implement processes for streamlining permitting.
Mr. Kramer told the Committee that the single largest obstacle to deploying solar is the manual review process used by the DOB for solar permits when the property owner is seeking a 20 percent property tax abatement granted by the State to promote solar installations. The property tax abatement expires at the end of the year.
Mr. Kramer offered three recommendations: that new regulations be adopted to "Permit the Use of Full Professional Self-Certification for All Solar Rooftop Installations," that the FDNY implement "E-Filing and Other Automated Procedures" to streamline the variance process, and that "an ad hoc Solar Task Force composed of empowered representatives of the Administration" be established together with solar installers, homeowners, and other stakeholders to improve processes and programs to expedite solar deployment and lower the cost of installations.
Mr. Kramer concluded by saying he and the solar community are "encouraged by the Administration’s commitment to eliminating obstacles to the use of solar power in the City. These steps will have the effect of allowing more and more New York City residents to convert to solar power, reducing the costs and burdens on the City, increasing employment, improving the air, and making the Mayor’s solar initiative a success."
Mr. Kramer’s testimony was heard as the New York City Council is considering proposed legislation titled "Requiring photovoltaic systems for city-owned buildings," File # Int 0478-2014.
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