Solar bill supporters acknowledge not all sectors will be happy

TRENTON – Supporters and sponsors of the solar energy bill signed into law today said they are aware that not all sectors will be happy.

But Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, (D-17), Franklin Township, said all parties should wait and see how this law affects supply and demand before deciding what “fixes” may or may not be needed.

And Gov. Chris Christie said that the Executive and Legislative branches worked in a bipartisan fashion on this bill that seeks to help the state’s solar industry.

But some environmentalists may argue the bill does not go far enough, and they point out how the governor pulled New Jersey out of the multistate cooperative, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, last year.

And some utilities may claim the bill affects their sector disproportionately.

“When people come in and ask for something they always want more,’’ Christie said after signing the solar bill. “They should keep quiet and say thank you.”

The state will evaluate the bill’s effect on the solar energy sector going forward, Christie said. “We’ll take it one step at a time.’’

And Chivukula said that if “fixes’’ are needed at some point, he hopes they are legislative fixes rather than fixes the Board of Public Utilities has to undertake as a regulatory agency.

“The legislative fix is a faster one,’’ Chivukula said.

And Christie reminded his audience today that New Jersey is the second largest solar energy producer in the country.

There are over 600 megawatts of solar power in various stages of installation right now, and over 1 percent of the electricity generated in the state comes from solar, Christie said.

Among other things, the newly signed law sets up a temporary increase in the renewable energy portfolio standards – the amount of solar that energy companies must purchase.

The bill changes the renewable portfolio standard from a fixed megawatt requirement each year to a percentage of the energy usage, which is a reflection of the fluctuation of energy demand.

“There is great economic potential in growing this industry here in the Garden State and this law will help to attract more investment in the industry and ultimately provide more jobs for New Jersey’s workers,” said Senate President Steve Sweeney, (D-3), West Deptford, in a release. “That is what this measure is really about – supporting quality, good-paying jobs for New Jersey’s workers.”

And co-sponsor Sen. Bob Smith, (D-17), Piscataway, referenced how the solar industry was hurt by the plummeting prices of the SRECs. “With the signing of this law, we will bring stability to the market, increase our use of a clean, domestically-produced energy source and ensure the continuation of manufacturing and installation jobs for many New Jersey residents, while keeping the costs down for electric ratepayers,” he said in a release.

Jeff Tittel, head of the N.J. Sierra Club, praised the signing.

“This is a victory for the solar program in New Jersey because without this law the solar industry would have collapsed,” he said in a release.  “New Jersey SRECs are reaching historic lows and this law will help to reverse that trend and stabilize these credits.”

Earlier story:

Christie says solar bill will create thousands of jobs


Solar bill supporters acknowledge not all sectors will be happy