Path to community solar runs through the Board of Public Utilities

By Ben Delman on June 10, 2018

The opportunity for all New Jersey residents to benefit from solar took a big step forward last month with the enactment of legislation that will enable community solar projects. Community solar enables individuals and businesses to benefit from solar energy, even if they are unable to put solar on their own roofs. Community solar participants can buy or lease a share of an off-site solar project. They then have the electricity generated from their portion of the project be credited to their monthly electric bill, just like they would if there were a solar system on their own roof.

Per the legislation, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) is responsible for implementing the program. The Board of Public Utilities is the state agency responsible for regulating the state’s utilities, including its electric utilities. It is made up of five commissioners who are appointed by the governor and must be confirmed by the state senate. Commissioners serve staggered six-year terms.

The Board is responsible for setting the rates we pay for our electricity. This is determined through a proceeding called a rate case. Utilities and ratepayer advocates present evidence as to what the rate should be, and the BPU comes to a decision.

Commissioners will use a similar process to determine how community solar will be implemented in the Garden State. While the legislature set guidelines for community solar, it will be up to the commissioners to determine how those guidelines are interpreted. Community solar supporters, ratepayer advocates, community solar developers, utilities, and others will have an opportunity to testify and present evidence. There will also be a public comment period where New Jersey residents can submit their views. This is our opportunity to ensure that the community solar program in New Jersey can benefit all residents.

Some items the law charges the BPU with determining:

  • The annual capacity limit for all community solar projects
  • Geographic limits on subscribers
  • Minimum number of subscribers per project
  • Rules to limit impact of land use

If you would like to learn more about community solar in New Jersey, watch our recent webinar. Sign up for our newsletter to keep informed about new developments and what you can do to ensure community solar is implemented fairly.