New Yorkers’ guide to going solar with Con Edison

Updated

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New York has some of the highest electricity rates in the entire country, and they’re only getting higher. If you’re one of Consolidated Edison’s 3.3 million electric customers, you’re probably tired of sending what seems like all of your money to your utility.

The easiest way to reduce your electricity costs is by installing solar panels. They can eliminate most of your electricity bill all while powering your home with clean renewable energy. We won’t lie to you though - trying to figure out how to start the solar installation process is confusing, especially with Con Edison.

That’s where we come in. We’ve outlined everything you need to know about going solar with Con Edison to help you figure out if it’s the right investment for you.

Find out how much it would cost to install a solar system on your specific home

Going solar with Con Edison at a glance

  • Con Edison offers full retail net metering for solar homeowners but has a mandatory monthly Customer Benefits Charge.
  • Solar panels can eliminate the majority of your ConEd bill, but you will still get a monthly bill consisting of non-bypassable charges, fees, and taxes.
  • New York State’s solar tax credit, the NY-Sun incentive, and the federal solar tax credit take thousands of dollars off the cost of installing a solar panel system.
  • It can take between three weeks and three months to get a solar panel system installed in Con Edison’s territory.
  • Low upfront installation costs, net metering, and the high price of electricity make solar a worthwhile investment for Con Edison customers.

Does Con Edison buy excess solar energy?

Yes, Con Edison does buy excess solar energy produced by your solar panels through a program called "Phase One Net Metering". Here's the basic gist of how ConEd's net metering program works: any energy your solar panels generate will first be used by your home. If more solar energy is produced than your home needs, it gets sent to the grid.

In exchange, ConEd gives you a credit on your utility bill, called a “Private Solar Usage Credit”, which is equal to one kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity. These kilowatt-hour credits offset the cost of the energy you use from the grid later in the day when the sun isn’t shining. Con Edison has pretty high electricity rates, so net metering can save you quite a bit of money on your electricity bill.

That’s Con Edison’s net metering in a nutshell. But, there are a few other things to know about Con Edison’s net metering program to get the full picture.

Customer Benefit Charge (CBC)

As part of New York’s transition to a more equitable solar billing system, the state’s government requires utilities to charge net-metered customers a “Customer Benefit Charge”, or CBC for short.

The CBC is a monthly charge added to your electricity bill based on the size of your solar system. For Con Edison customers, the CBC rate is $0.94 per kilowatt (kW) of solar installed. So, if you have a 7 kW solar system, you’ll have to pay an additional $6.58 per month. The CBC charge cannot be offset using solar credits.

It's a bummer that you have to pay an additional charge on your bill, but it's small enough that it doesn't severely impact your solar savings. You can read more about the CBC charge and how it affects your solar savings here.

Credit rollover

Under the utility’s previous net metering rules, leftover solar credits would be cashed out annually. With Phase One Net Metering, there is no annual cash out.

Private Solar Usage credits roll over from month to month and year to year until the end of your 20-year net metering contract. However, any remaining credits will expire at the end of your contract.

Rate plan

Con Edison offers two residential rate plans, the standard rate plan and the time of day rate plan, both of which can be used by net metering customers. But, if you’re installing solar panels, you should stick with the standard rate plan because it will provide you with the highest solar savings possible.

The time of day plan charges different prices for electricity throughout the day. This means a net metering credit produced during an off-peak period, when electricity is cheapest, can only be used to cover energy you use from the grid during an off-peak period later on. This limits how much of your energy costs you can reduce, thus leaving you with lower savings.

What about VDER? New York is shifting away from net metering to a new type of solar billing program called the Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER), or Value Stack, program. Right now, it's not mandatory to use VDER, but you can opt into the program if you'd like. The VDER program could give you lower solar savings overall, but not too drastically. Plus, you get a lower CBC rate. We recommend sticking with net metering for now.

Can going solar eliminate my entire Con Edison bill?

Installing solar panels can get rid of most of your Con Edison bill. The portion of the bill that is related to energy charges is the largest portion of your bill, and that can be completely wiped out with solar panels.

The part of your bill that solar can’t cover is mandatory charges, taxes, and fees. As we mentioned earlier, you have to pay the CBC charge, which will add a few bucks per month. Residential customers also have to pay a $17.00 customer charge. With those two charges alone, that’s around $25 you have to pay to Con Ed.

But, $25 is a lot less than the $150 electricity bill you had before going solar. In fact, those savings add up to just about $1,500 in one year alone.

Does Con Edison offer any solar incentives or rebates?

Con Edison does not have solar incentives or rebates for their customers. Don't worry, though – there are state and federal incentives that can help bring down the upfront cost of solar for ConEd customers.

The first is the state's NY-Sun Megawatt Block Program. Con Edison homeowners who switch to solar can earn $0.20 per watt, or $200 per kW, of solar installed on their roof. That's a rebate of about $1,200 for the average-sized solar system.

New York also has a state solar tax credit that is equal to 25% of solar installation costs, up to $5,000. Combine that with the 30% federal solar tax credit, and you can save thousands of dollars on installing solar.

With both the state and federal solar tax credit, plus the NY-Sun incentive, an average solar system would cost around $7,000 Without incentives, the total cost would be closer to $18,000.

The sun is setting on incentives. The current incentives available to Con Edison Customers are great, but they won’t last forever. Luckily, the 30% solar tax credit has been extended until 2032, but the NY-Sun incentive will expire once the program’s cap is met. If you don’t switch to solar soon, it could be too late to save thousands of dollars with incentives.

Should Con Edison customers install a solar battery?

Solar batteries are becoming a popular addition to solar installations across the country as more homeowners want access to backup power, but they aren't really necessary for New Yorkers. This is mostly because Con Edison provides net metering for their solar customers, so adding a battery will cost you at least an extra $10,000 without providing you any additional electricity bill savings.

However, installing solar panels in New York is relatively cheap, thanks to all of the incentives in place. So, adding on energy storage isn't a terrible financial investment, as you can still get a decent solar payback period.

The bottom line? You don’t need a battery when you go solar. But, if you want to have peace of mind that you’ll be able to keep your lights on and a few appliances running during a power outage, then a solar battery could be a worthwhile purchase for you.

Find out how much a solar battery can impact your solar savings

Con Edison’s solar interconnection process

We wish installing solar was as easy as installing the panels and turning them on. Unfortunately, there’s a little more paperwork and a lot more time involved to make sure the solar panels are safe for operation. Generally, this is referred to as the interconnection process, and it’s mostly handled by your solar installer.

From the time you start your application to the time your solar panels are turned on can vary greatly. Expect it to take no less than three weeks, but also be prepared for it to take as long as three months.

Step 1: File an application

Your solar installer will fill out an interconnection application to send to Con Edison. The application package consists of many items including but not limited to a signed contract, a description of the system, the system design, and product details.

Upon receiving, Con Edison has ten business days to review and either approve or deny the application. Con Edison will also alert you if the grid needs upgrades to support the proposed system. If this is necessary, the costs would fall on you as the customer, but generally would not exceed $350.

Step 2: Obtaining permits

Getting your hands on the necessary permits is going to be the longest part of the entire process. Permitting varies from town to town, so there is no concrete answer as to what permits you’ll need to complete the installation.

All permits must be received before the system installation can begin. In total, permitting can take as little as one week or as long as six weeks to complete.

Step 3: System installation

Once you receive written approval from Con Edison, the solar installation can take place. Believe it or not, this is the fastest part of the entire process. Typically, residential solar installations only take about 6 hours to complete. More complex installations can take around 3 days. You can read our breakdown of the solar installation process for more details.

Step 4: Meter configuration

When the solar installation is complete, your installer will notify Con Edison. Within ten business days of notification, Con Edison will install the new electricity meter or meters needed to participate in net metering.

Step 5: System testing

Before the solar panels can be turned on, they must be tested and inspected by your installer. New York State has a required testing procedure that you can read about here.

Con Edison doesn’t have to be present at the time of testing, but the company might decide they want a representative on site. If this is the case, Con Edison and your installer will work out a meeting time within ten business days of when the installation was completed.

Step 6: Final acceptance

Your solar installer will submit a formal notification that system testing has been completed. Once received, Con Edison will supply a written letter of acceptance within five business days. Then, your solar panels are ready to be turned on, and start powering your home with clean, renewable energy!

Is going solar with Con Edison worth it?

Yes, it is definitely worth it to go solar with Con Edison. Phase One Net Metering provides excellent solar savings, even if you have to pay the monthly CBC charge. Not only that, but the incentives available in New York State right now are phenomenal. The combination of all of these incentives, plus net metering, means ConEd customers can get a solar payback period as short as 5 years. That means 20 full years of free electricity!

But, you don’t want to wait. The NY-Sun megawatt block program won’t be around forever – in fact, it’s getting close to reaching capacity. And with New York getting ready to transition away from Phase One Net Metering to a different solar crediting program, the sooner you go solar, the better.

If you want the maximum amount of savings and the cheapest solar installation price, the time to go solar as a Con Edison customer is now.

 - Author of Solar Reviews

Catherine Lane

SolarReviews Blog Author

Catherine is a researcher and content specialist at SolarReviews. She has strong interests in issues related to climate and sustainability which led her to pursue a degree in environmental science at Ramapo College of New Jersey.

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