New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently signed a bill to strengthen the state’s community solar program, increasing its overall size and expanding access by meaningfully eliminating barriers for low- and moderate- income (LMI) residents’ participation.
Community solar is a powerful tool to expand access to the benefits of solar regardless of income level or housing type, and to provide every New Jerseyan the opportunity to choose local, reliable, and lower-cost clean energy solutions. As part of the permanent Community Solar Energy Program (CSEP), 51% of the program’s capacity is devoted to serving LMI subscribers. In addition, subscribers will see a minimum bill credit of 15%, resulting in meaningful guaranteed savings for the communities across the state that stand to benefit the most.
Streamlining eligibility verification – This legislation puts self-attestation, a key equity provision within New Jersey’s permanent Community Solar Energy Program, into law. Previously, qualifying for LMI community solar required extensive documentation of income. This can be frustrating, embarrassing, and decrease overall adoption.
Allowing municipalities to facilitate access for low income subscribers – This bill allows the sharing of necessary information so that municipalities can identify and subscribe eligible community members to automatically receive energy bill savings. This change ensures that the benefits of clean energy flow to those who need them the most, since at least 80% of municipally aggregated subscribers will be low and moderate income.
Updating the community solar program’s size – This legislation increases the amount of community solar that New Jersey will enjoy. The need for community solar, and the public enthusiasm for it, currently outstrips the size of the program. This December, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) announced that it had received enough applications for the Community Solar Energy Program to generate more than 300 MW of new solar. By modestly increasing the program’s capacity, the bill accelerates the state’s clean energy transition and expands access to clean energy for more New Jersey residents, regardless of income or housing type.
Expanding equitable access to clean energy is particularly important because overburdened communities, especially communities of color, face disproportionately high utility bills and exposure to air pollution from fossil fuels, often with serious impacts on health and wellbeing.
The bill’s Prime Sponsors are Senators Bob Smith and Linda Greenstein in the Senate, and Representatives John McKeon, Daniel Benson, and Representative Raj Mukherji in the Assembly.
“New Jersey’s community solar program has rapidly emerged as a national leader in the fight for an equitable clean energy future.” said Elowyn Corby, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for national non-profit Vote Solar. “We’re grateful to the state leaders who have pushed to make this vision a reality, and to the communities across the state who’ve tirelessly worked to prove that we don’t need to choose between speed and equity in our clean energy transition. When we commit to a clean energy transition that puts the interests, health, and wellbeing of people at its center, the sky really is the limit.”
News item from Vote Solar