The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved rules for a new community solar pilot program that will give many renters, low-income families, businesses and others an easy and affordable way to go solar for the first time. The ruling clears the way for at least 225 MW of community solar to be built in New Jersey over the next three years, which will fuel bill savings and power approximately 20,000 to 30,000 homes and other customers. The program will also create local clean energy jobs and help the state meet its ambitious renewable energy goals.
“Community solar gives everyone, regardless of their income level or what kind of building they call home, the opportunity to benefit from safe, healthy, affordable solar power. We thank Governor Murphy, state lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and the BPU for showing the state and the nation what it means to build a just and equitable clean energy economy. This is the kind of leadership our communities and our climate need and deserve,” said Pari Kasotia, Mid-Atlantic director for Vote Solar.
“Today’s ruling was one of the final steps to getting the community solar pilot program up and running in communities across New Jersey,” said Brandon Smithwood, policy director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA). “We expect developers will be building projects in about a year and customers will be subscribed to community solar projects and seeing the savings on their energy bills within the next two years.”
Solar has quickly become one of the nation’s fastest growing and lowest cost energy sources. However, physical and financial barriers prevent up to 75% of consumers from going solar on their own rooftops—families who rent, have shaded rooftops or don’t qualify for standard financing solutions, for example. In 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the state’s new community solar program into law, which is designed to give more customers a way to go solar by participating in a shared solar installation located somewhere else in their community and receiving a credit on their utility bill for their share of the power produced.
Vote Solar and CCSA noted that New Jersey has a significant community solar opportunity with room to grow well beyond the 20,000 to 30,000 customers that will be served by the newly approved pilot program. By comparison, a 2018 study from GTM Research found that community solar has the potential to deliver energy savings for more than 400,000 customers in New Jersey, including a quarter million low-to-moderate income and affordable housing customers, by 2030. The BPU is able to evaluate and expand the program each year and, once the three-year pilot program is complete, will transition to a permanent community solar program. The program’s rules are flexible enough to allow for projects built across the state on a variety of sites including brownfields, warehouses, rooftops, and farms where they can provide a critical source of revenue.
“As sunny as today’s BPU decision is, we’re still just scratching the surface of New Jersey’s community solar opportunity, and we hope to work with state leaders to continue improving and expanding this critical clean energy program in years to come,” added Smithwood.
The rules voted on today will become official once they are published in the state register. BPU will now finalize the application process for the new program which should open to developers by March, and local planning boards should start receiving projects proposals from developers in the coming year.
Additional solar and low-income advocacy organizations, GRID Alternatives and New Jersey Solar United Neighbors, also applauded today’s decision by the BPU and Governor Murphy’s leadership in expanding clean energy access to all New Jerseyans.
News item from Vote Solar