Solar “pull through” legislation goes back to basics

By Ben Delman on March 19, 2018

As we wrote last month, the New Jersey Legislature has been considering sweeping changes to the state’s energy landscape. Its first attempt this session fell short, as energy omnibus bill S-877 did not make it to a Senate floor vote. The bill’s sponsors had to abandon the initiative and choose a different, yet familiar, path.

Last week, new bills, A-3723 and S-2314, were introduced into their respective houses. They are expected to have separate committee hearings April 5. These bills go back to the theme of original legislation from last legislative session (S-529). That initiative increased the requirement for the amount of electricity that the state’s utilities must produce or secure from renewable sources. It ultimately made it to outgoing Governor Chris Christie’s desk, only to be pocket vetoed.

The new legislation mirrors the former proposal and updates the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), as well as buttressing the state’s solar incentives. An increased RPS remains important for solar because the current standard (4.1%) will be met by the mid-point of this year. So, if the RPS is not increased, the state’s primary solar incentive, Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs), could be rendered useless.

As such, these bills support the current incentives on a temporary basis, over the next three years, and buy time for the state to adopt new solar incentives.

According to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the agency responsible for oversight of electricity in the state, New Jersey has over 80,000 residential solar installations. The large number of installations and New Jersey’s robust SREC market are indicative of the role the RPS has played in supporting solar. The new bills are intended to provide a temporary solution – until the state adopts new standards and incentives for renewable energy.