New Jersey has been one of the nation’s leaders when it comes to the promotion and implementation of #solar energy. Most notably, New Jersey’s federal investment tax credit for #solar, as well as state incentive policies, have landed New Jersey as one of the top 10 solar state’s in the nation. In 2018, New Jersey ranked seventh for overall solar capacity and nearly half a million homes are powered state-wide by solar #energy. Additionally, 586 solar companies in the state provide over 6,400 careers for residents.
Public schools in New Jersey have also jumped on board with the state’s solar enthusiasm, engaging in over 600 solar energy-related projects that benefit both students and taxpayers. Unfortunately, the momentum gained by schools and other entities across the Garden State might soon be threatened if the latest New Jersey Board of Public Utilities’(BPU) initiative is not handled carefully. Their latest proposal is known as the solar transition incentive plan, or transition solar renewable energy credits (#TREC). It has residents and proponents of solar worried for the future of current solar energy projects.
Inside the TREC Program
The implementation of the TREC program will likely interfere with the current Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) program. It demands that the state’s SREC program close altogether when 5.1% of total energy sold in the state is generated from solar power, or by June of 2021, depending on which comes first. TREC credits will operate in much the same way that SREC’s do with one major exception — TREC’s are worth significantly less due to lower compliance payments.
The TREC program proposes five major changes, which include establishing an energy storage initiative, the institution of energy efficiency programs, increasing New Jersey’s renewable portfolio standard, increasing solar curve out, and creating community solar net metering frameworks. While all of these goals may sound agreeable upfront, critics of the TREC program believe that, if it passes, the initiative could ultimately harm the state’s current and future solar programs.
Criticism Towards the TREC Program
Those against the TREC program, namely the Division of Rate Counsel and others, have stated that the new proposal will harm solar customers since the proposal “fails to achieve objectives of a 2018 law,” which aimed to incentivize and lower costs for those who subsidize new solar projects. The counsel’s director, Stefanie Brand, argues that the implementation of TREC could ultimately cause a major roadblock for the state’s 2050 goal of becoming 100% reliant on clean energy.
Solar developers are against the TREC program because the new incentives offered under the program are far too low for solar companies to want to invest in new solar projects in New Jersey. Thus, it is predicted that the program could ultimately lead to major employee layoffs statewide.
If the proposal passes, solar energy costs will go up for customers and fewer home installations will be installed. In addition to the impact on the residential sector, businesses and industrial properties will likely refrain from investing in solar energy due to the changes to the state’s overall solar incentives as a result of the TREC program.
What’s Next for New Jersey?
New Jersey has made significant strides in the solar energy realm in the past. Notably, this past summer, the Six Flags theme park in Jackson completed a 40-acre solar farm that spans across what once was an unused parking lot. The solar array now powers 53 rides in the amusement park, including the Six Flags on-site water park.
The Six Flags solar farm, in addition to other projects across the state that have made headlines, have made New Jersey a prime example of how states can utilize renewable energy effectively. If the new TREC program passes, it is possible that revolutionary projects, in the works and soon to come, may no longer receive proper funding.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities plans to meet in December to further discuss how the TREC program can be improved and implemented. Although, we can say for certain that they will continue to be met with criticism and push back from solar advocates in the state.