The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) on August 16 voted to establish a permanent community Solar Program. The new Community Solar Energy Program (CSEP) follows a successful two years of a pilot program.
“By building on the successes of our nation-leading Community Solar Program, we will continue to expand access among New Jersey families to the significant benefits of clean energy,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “For far too long, those benefits — both environmental and financial — have remained out of reach for many of our low- and moderate-income residents, including renters. Thanks to programs like these, which prioritize the equitable and inclusive adoption of clean energy, we will continue to ensure that no New Jerseyan, regardless of their zip code, is left behind in our pursuit of a clean energy future.”
Since the Governor and Legislature created the Community Solar Pilot Program in 2018, the Board approved 150 projects totaling 243 MW of capacity. To date, 29 of those projects, totaling 50 MW, have reached commercial operation and provide over 6,000 New Jersey households the benefits of solar power, including financial savings. The Board expects another 97 projects to begin serving customers within the next several months.
“I am thrilled that the Board has made our extremely popular and successful Community Solar Program permanent,” said NJBPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso. “At the heart of it, community solar is about unlocking access to clean energy for many residents, especially in low-to-moderate income communities and in urban areas where residential rooftop and ground-mount solar are not possible. Today’s action will help more New Jerseyans reap the benefits of our clean energy transition and help combat the devastating and worsening impacts of climate change.”
New Jersey’s Community Solar Energy Program allows those who rent, lack control of their roof, live in a multi-family building, do not have property suitable for solar, or cannot afford the cost of a solar installation to benefit from the cost savings and access to clean energy through solar power. The permanent community solar program builds on the success of the pilot program in advancing equity within the solar sector. The Board is requiring all community solar projects serve a minimum of 51% low and moderate income (LMI) subscribers, as measured by capacity subscribed. The definition of LMI subscribers in the Permanent Program remains consistent with the definitions given in the Pilot Program rules.
With their vote, the Board has also ensured that community solar subscribers will be guaranteed a minimum discount on their utility bill. Projects must state a guaranteed bill credit discount of no less than 15% in their registration, which will apply for the duration of customers’ subscriptions. Projects may choose to offer a greater discount, including special discounts to LMI subscribers, and projects with greater discounts will be given priority if program capacity is exceeded during an initial registration period. Subscribers will receive the guaranteed discount for the portion of their electricity bill that is covered by their community solar subscription, typically 90% or more.
Residents interested in subscribing to a community solar project may search the Board’s Community Solar Project Finder for projects that serve their area.
The permanent CSEP will permit community solar projects of no greater than 5 MW on rooftops, carports and canopies over impervious surfaces, contaminated sites and landfills, and certain bodies of water such as water treatment reservoirs and dredge ponds.
The Board anticipates opening the application window for a 225-MW capacity block for Energy Year (EY) 2024 in November 2023. The Board will open a second application period for an additional at least 225 MW in EY 2025, which begins on June 1, 2024.
New projects will be sited in all four major utility service territories, and this year’s program will support enough community solar projects to enroll about 30,000 New Jersey subscribers.
News item from the NJBPU