The fortunes of distributed solar in New York have received a boost after its Public Service Commission agreed to raise the cap on net metering in the state.

The PSC last week increased the cap from 3% to 6%, effectively doubling the amount of solar on homes and businesses eligible to receive NEM credits.

In a related move, the PSC also announced plans to advance community net metering, a concept that could open up solar to those logistically unable to access it, such as tenants in rented properties.

According to a blog post by advocacy group, Vote Solar, the cap increase will allow a total of 1,500MW of customer-sited PV generation. Although the state has aims to reach 3GW of solar by 2020, Vote Solar said the cap increase would give the market in New York the “critical near-term certainty” it needs to grow.

The move was welcome by pro-solar groups, including the Solar Energy Industries Associations, whose chief executive, Rhone Resch, said: "This is a huge step forward in New York's efforts to create new jobs, reduce pollution and fight climate change.

“[New York] Governor Cuomo and the PSC deserve a lot of credit for being forward looking and for understanding the importance of market certainty. With 338MW of solar capacity already installed across the state, this action puts New York on a clear trajectory to become one of the nation's leading solar states."

The 338MW of solar energy currently installed in New York ranks the state ninth in the US in installed solar capacity. There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 57,000 homes. In 2013, US$343 million was invested in New York to install solar for home, business and utility use. This represents a 12% increase over the previous year and is expected to grow again this year.

In a statement following the announcement, lobbying body the Alliance for Solar Choice said: “Scores of New Yorkers from across the state wrote to the Commission earlier this year to express their support for net metering and the need to expand it. The commission recognised this consumer demand today, giving more New Yorkers the opportunity to participate in this growing market. Net metering is working for New York and will remain critical to the continued growth of the state's solar industry.”

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