Just days ago, the New Jersey Legislature passed legislation designed to encourage investment in solar energy systems, which will help the state achieve its goal of having 22.5% of power come from renewable sources by 2020. New Jersey is currently projected to add nearly 300 MW of solar capacity in 2015 alone, according to SEIA’s U.S. Solar Insight Report from the first quarter.
If signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie, the incentive will appeal largely to homeowners and small business owners, who will be able to sell back unused solar-generated electricity. This system of taking unused energy back into the grid and paying the producer is known as net metering, and is currently used in 44 states.
However, net metering is not unlimited. Under current New Jersey law, “utilities do not have to offer net metering when generating capacity by net-metered customers equals 2.5 percent of the state’s peak demand for electricity, a level already exceeded.” The new law would increase the cap to 2.9 percent, which is a start—but far from the initial goal of the Senate bill, which was 4 percent.
So obviously the owner of the solar panels will reap the benefits, but residents across the state can benefit from this system as well. By allowing net metering and encouraging residential and commercial solar growth, utility companies can avoid costly investment in large-scale solar projects. And because the utilities are able to avoid the costs of generating and distributing the excess energy produced by solar panels, those additional costs are not projected onto the customers receiving that energy. This means savings for solar owners, utility companies, and everyone else connected to the energy grid.
Not only would increasing incentives and the number of solar systems in New Jersey help the state save money, but it also has the potential of creating a more resilient energy grid—something that is sure to come in handy to any state along the shore. With the frequency and severity of natural disasters increasing, there has never been a better time for New Jersey to invest in solar. Hurricane Sandy devastated the state, and those who did not lose their homes entirely were largely without electricity for weeks. Fortifying the state’s energy grid with solar could help to keep chaos from breaking out during future disasters by providing electricity to homes and hospitals. Environment New Jersey issued a report that details all of the benefits of net metering.
We can only hope that Gov. Christie will continue in his efforts to make the Garden state even greener by signing this new initiative into law. If you are a resident of New Jersey or Pennsylvania looking to take advantage of solar, contact Exact Solar for more information.