Trenton, NJ: Governor Chris Christie signed S1925 / A2966 into law today. This law makes adjustments to the solar incentive program in New Jersey.
As most of our customers know by now, solar development in NJ during the past 2 years has exceeded State mandates for solar. Since the payments for solar production are based on a market structure called the Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC), the overbuilding of solar in relation to State mandates has resulted in lower SREC prices. This had a negative effect on investors who have already installed solar and those who would like to install solar now. On the other hand, ratepayers have benefited from the low SREC payments.
Since the passage of the last solar legislation over two years ago, there were two major changes in solar that required this new legislation. First, the cost of solar panels has dropped significantly and second, the solar industry in New Jersey has increased in size and has become a job creator.
These events created a unique opportunity for lawmakers to adjust the program for the benefit of both ratepayers and solar investors. Simply put, reduce cost exposure for ratepayers over the long term while increasing solar development in the short term.
It is encouraging to see that the Christie administration and the Democratic Controlled State Senate and Assembly came to agreement on a bill that takes advantage of external changes in the solar industry (declining solar costs coupled with an increasing willingness of investors to invest in NJ solar) and brings those advantages to ratepayers and solar investors alike. With an estimated 3 billion dollars invested so far in New Jersey solar infrastructure, political stability is the most important factor in attracting cheap capital to build out the remainder of the solar capacity mandated by State Law.
Here are some of the changes implemented by the new legislation:
Increase RPS: (Renewable Portfolio Standard) Increase the amount of SRECs that need to be purchased in the short term to absorb the oversupply and maintain a higher build rate
Decrease the SACP: (Solar Alternative Compliance Payment) Lower the fine level from $600+ to $339 and lower to protect ratepayers.
Limit solar farm development
Incentivize solar development on landfills, brownfields and large net metered projects.
Aggregated net metering for electricity consumption by certain governmental bodies and school districts.
Investors new and old in New Jersey solar still have to keep in mind the risk of overbuilding in the future still exists. Many solar developers lobbied for throttle mechanisms to help guarantee profits to solar owners by crowding out future development of solar in case of an overbuild situation again. This approach was rejected. Instead, land use and consideration for net benefits for net metered projects took precedent. These were all alluded to in the Energy Master Plan put out by the Christie Administration late last year. Many people in New Jersey have started to complain about solar farms and the legislature and Governors office has heard them.
The following have had instrumental input in either creating this legislation or influencing its outcome:
Governor Chris Christies’ office Stephen M. Sweeney – Senate President Senator Bob Smith – Environment and Energy Committee Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula – Telecommunications and Utilities Committee Stefanie A. Brand, Esq – Director, Division of Rate Council – State of New Jersey
New Jersey Renewable Energy Coalition – a coalition of industry investors, headed by Tony Pizzutillo, was able to marry the objectives of both the Governor’s Energy Master Plan with Legislative leadership. Also, the Coalition successfully identified statewide labor organizations as proponents of the industry.
There are many other renewable energy coalitions, environmental groups, electricity companies, large electricity consumer advocates, labor organizations along with New Jersey business owners and individuals who worked tirelessly over the past year to advance this legislation. I don’t feel that any one group got exactly everything they wanted but in the end it is a good piece of legislation.
The only guarantee is that inputs will change as the years go on. If they are as extreme as they have been in the past two years future “tweaks” will be needed. I look forward to adding whatever information I can about SREC market structure, investors in solar and electric company interaction with RPS requirements.