Legislature passes bills to secure solar market

By Ben Delman on April 16, 2018

New Jersey’s community of solar supporters got good news last week as the state legislature passed A-3723 and S-2314. These bills do three important things. They ensure solar owners receive fair credit for the electricity they generate. They stabilize New Jersey’s solar market by recognizing the value solar provides to all New Jersey residents. And, they create a pathway for all New Jersey residents to take a stake in solar energy. Governor Murphy is expected to sign them into law.

When a solar system produces more electricity than a home uses, the excess electricity is sent out through the electric meter to neighbors. Solar owners receive credit for this electricity through a billing system called net metering. Net metering provides a one-to-one credit to solar owners for this electricity. Rooftop solar arrays in New Jersey cannot be sized to generate more electricity than the home or building uses over the course of a year.

New Jersey currently caps the amount of solar energy that utilities must credit through net metering at 2.9 percent of the total electricity load. The new legislation consideration would raise this arbitrary cap to 5.8 percent.

The legislation will also increase our state’s target for renewable energy generation to 50 percent by 2030. This target recognizes the environmental benefits solar provides. Harnessing the sun’s energy to produce electricity reduces air pollution, which poses a serious health threat in our region. According to the American Lung Association, northern New Jersey is the nation’s ninth most polluted area, and the Philadelphia-Reading-Camden region is the 22nd most polluted region. This pollution is linked to higher rates of childhood asthma and respiratory disease.

Lastly, the bill empowers the state Board of Public Utilities to authorize community solar projects. Community solar allows people who are unable to install solar panels (such as renters, or homeowners with shady roofs) to invest in a near-by solar facility and benefit from solar energy just as they would if the panels were on their own roof.