New Jersey is the Germany of the United States when it comes to solar power. It’s a place not known for its sunshine, but thanks to some sound policy the state has become a solar leader. In the first quarter of 2012, New Jersey even managed to lead the nation in newly installed PV capacity, with 173.8 megawatts to California’s 148.4 MW.
And now the state has made a move to keep this good thing going.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie today signed what some are calling the “solar resurrection bill,” legislation that boosts the amount of energy utilities are required to get from renewables in the short term. The hope is that this accelerated renewable portfolio standard, along with other tweaks to the state’s solar policy, will shore up a sagging renewable energy credit market that many believed was threatening to derail solar development in the state.
The solar industry had pushed hard for the legislation, which sailed through the legislature but faced something of an uncertain outcome with Christie, whose administration released a draft Energy Master Plan in 2011 that labeled the state’s successful renewable energy policy a “financial albatross.”
But the governor has apparently since seen the bright light of solar power; he said today that “renewable energy not only helps meet our goals of increasing sustainability and protecting the environment, but can be an engine for economic growth.”
New Jersey’s growth as a solar kingpin has been built largely on a solar renewable energy credit system that works in concert with a renewable portfolio standard. SRECs are tradable commodities that represent 1,000 kilowatt-hours of solar power. Utilities need them in order to meet the state RPS – but with robust federal subsidies and plunging solar costs driving a boom in solar installations, the market had become flooded with SRECs. That threatened to make installing solar power system less attractive to businesses and homeowners.
According to broker Flett Exchange, SRECs that last December were trading for more than $280 had plunged to below $100 in April this year, before beginning to rise again as talk of legislation heated up.
The industry lobbying group Solar Energy Industries Association gave Christie a big thumbs-up for signing the bill.
“New Jersey is the second largest market in the U.S. for solar energy, however additional market growth was threatened,” Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA, said in a statement. “Thanks to the leadership of Governor Christie and our champions in the state legislature, in particular Senator Smith, Senate President Sweeney, and Assemblyman Chivukula, New Jersey’s solar industry will now continue to provide jobs, investment and energy security for years to come.”