NJ Solar Program Must be Fixed to Prevent Collapse
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) is holding a Stakeholder Hearing on the development and transition of the New Jersey Solar Renewable Energy Certificate Program (SREC). They are holding the meeting from 3 pm to 7 pm at the Larson Auditorium Seton Hall Law School One Newark Center Newark, NJ 07102. Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, released the following statement:
“New Jersey has had one of the most successful programs in the country but over the last decade we fell behind. We were 2nd in the nation for solar installations and we’re now 7th. We had 10,000 jobs in solar and dropped down to 5,500. Now we’re coming back up with 7,000 jobs. However, we’re afraid that the market will crash again. We’re at the same situation that we were in 2012 with the threat of a crash and the SRECs are about ready to run out. If we don’t move forward, we’ll lose more jobs and more opportunities for clean energy. We must work to become a leader once more in solar power. We need a solution to avoid this one-two punch of SRECs running out and then reaching the cost cap.
“We may not be able to fix the market until after a crash due to discrepancies between groups. That’s why it’s critical for the BPU to work on a program now and to get rid of the cost cap. We must all get on same page to come up with a cost-effective solution that works for all of New Jersey. This includes looking at other funding mechanisms and regulations to push for solar programs to get done. New Jersey’s utility economic model is based on how much power they sell, this is unsustainable and will only lead to more waste and pollution. We should reverse it, like New York is doing. We can also fix this by developing a new, more cost-effective solar program similar to ones that are working in other states such as Massachusetts. We need to change the way we do business with utilities.
“Even if we fix the program, we’ll hit the cost cap in 2020 because of the new law and the market will crash again. We need to change the law so this doesn’t happen. The current solar program will eat up almost all the cap, preventing us from meeting those RPS goals. An OLS report says that in 2020 the cost of our RPS will exceed the cap by $280 million. This means the BPU will set aside the Renewable Portfolio Standard for that year. This leaves no room for New Jersey to move forward to meet targets of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (50% by 2030). This would send money to help the economy and jobs of other states and is a fraud that actually works against renewable energy.
“We should also be working to expand our community solar program, which is important for our environment and economy because it allows any ratepayer to subscribe to an off-site solar installation. We ideally want at least 20% set aside for community solar in New Jersey and for the state to remove the size cap it has for these community projects to allow for larger projects that can extend to whole neighborhoods and even towns. We should also increase the solar targeted to low-income areas from 10% to at least 30%. We can help urban communities by putting panels on brownfields and rooftops. These are people who will continue to be disproportionately affected by climate change and therefore should directly benefit from investments in clean energy.
“Despite once being a leader in the country for solar power, we our concerned that New Jersey’s solar market will collapse completely within the next year and no longer accept applications for solar projects. This could lead to the bankrupting of countless renewable energy projects costing thousands of clean energy jobs since there are five times as many jobs in the solar sector than there is in the coal industry. This would be a disaster that will put a wrench in our plans to make New Jersey cleaner and greener by destroying the solar market altogether.
“New Jersey should be doing more to strengthen and promote solar energy in our state. Solar power provides more jobs than any other energy sector and is a cleaner and cheaper to use. New Jersey has fallen behind other states when it comes to clean energy and clean energy jobs. If we don’t fix the problems with this cap within the next years, the solar market in NJ will collapse. We should exempt in-state New Jersey renewable energy projects from any cap in order to facilitate the growth of solar and clean energy in New Jersey. Since the solar program went into effect about 10 years ago, solar has become 29 percent more efficient and gone down in price by 25 percent. Improving solar energy in the state would make our environment cleaner, fight climate change, and increase green jobs.”