New Jersey has firmly embraced the concept of solar for all with its new 225 megawatt community solar program, within which 40% of all capacity is earmarked for low- and moderate-income consumers. The three-year pilot program was designed by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to serve up to 30,000 homes. The evolution of the project will determine the terms of the permanent program thereafter.
As part of new law A3723/S2314, signed by Governor Phil Murphy in May 2018, the BPU will establish a remote net metering application process to approve a certified public entity that is the host customer and the primary account holder.
The new law which mandates the creation of the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program, in consultation with PJM Interconnection, the independent system operator. The application process for the new program should open to developers by March, and local planning boards should start receiving projects proposals from developers thereafter.
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 program would permit a customer of an electric public utility to participate in a solar energy project with a capacity of 5 MW or less.
A.B. 3723, enacted in May 2018, also included several updates to the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio standard including increasing the RPS standard to 50% by 2030. Another change is an increase in the offshore wind carveout up to 3,500 MW, and in the Solar carveout, now set at 4.1% by 2030.
The law also permits the BPU to approve for energy years 2019 and 2020 up to a total of 100 megawatts of auctioned capacity of solar electric power generation facility projects under the state’s existing Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) program.
“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,” said Pari Kasotia, Mid-Atlantic Director for Vote Solar, on the announcement of the program rules.
The program will have tight BPU oversight. The Community Solar Energy Pilot Program will include a verification process to ensure that the solar energy projects are producing an amount of energy that is greater than or equal to the amount of energy that is being credited to its participating customer’s electric utility bills. Projects approved by the board will need at least two participating customers. The board also may restrict qualified solar energy projects to those located on brownfields, landfills, areas designated in need of redevelopment, in underserved communities, or on commercial rooftops.
““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,” said Brandon Smithwood, policy director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) at the time of the BPU announcement.
Among other mandates of the new law are for the BPU to do the following:
- Consider how implementation of renewable electric energy storage systems may benefit ratepayers by providing emergency back-up power for essential services, offsetting peak loads, and stabilizing the electric distribution system
- Consider whether implementation of renewable electric energy storage systems would promote the use of electric vehicles in the State, and the potential impact on renewable energy production in the State
- Study the types of energy storage technologies currently being implemented in the State and elsewhere
- Consider the benefits and costs to ratepayers, local governments, and electric public utilities associated with the development and implementation of additional energy storage technologies
- Determine the optimal amount of energy storage to be added in the State over the next five years in order to provide the maximum benefit to ratepayers;
- Determine the optimum points of entry into the electric distribution system for distributed energy resources
- Calculate the cost to the State’s ratepayers of adding the optimal amount of energy storage
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