NJ Board of Public Utilities Votes to Adopt Solar Incentive Program
Energy justice advocates celebrate some wins for equity, identify areas of improvement
New Jersey — Last week, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) voted unanimously to approve the Successor Solar Incentive (SuSI) Program, an initiative that paves the way for up to 3,750 megawatts of new solar generation by 2026, doubling New Jersey’s current capacity in the next five years.
In May of this year, a coalition of environmental justice advocates across New Jersey submitted program recommendations to the BPU, with particular focus on expanding energy equity for overburdened communities. Despite ranking seventh in the nation for solar installation, upfront cost remains a significant barrier to solar adoption for New Jersey customers with low-to-moderate income (LMI).
BPU recommended some of the coalition’s requests for adoption, including higher incentive values for LMI customers. Approximately 35 percent of New Jersey households have incomes at or below 80 percent area median income; however, this group represented only 21 percent of solar adopters in 2019. Providing additional financial incentives will help to level the playing field and increase equity in solar deployment.
Other recommendations were excluded from the program or bookmarked for further discussion. Notably, the coalition’s request for additional rooftop solar incentives for LMI customers was left out of the program. The coalition also made the case for less stringent income verification processes, citing expert opinions that self-attestation is a more effective way to expand LMI participation and remove unnecessary roadblocks for LMI customers. BPU has flagged this recommendation for future deliberation.
The SuSI Program will take effect on August 28, 2021. Once fully implemented, solar is expected to generate ten percent of New Jersey’s total electricity needs.
Members of the coalition commented:
“While we’re encouraged by the adoption of important equity measures, we hope to see additional progress in energy equity and strategic investments in overburdened communities,” says Elena Weissmann, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director at Vote Solar. “New Jersey has a powerful opportunity to improve economic justice, and implementation of the Successor Solar Incentive Program will be a step in the right direction. We look forward to working with BPU to make the program even stronger.”
“PosiGen commends the Board of Public Utilities on this strong public investment in a clean energy future for New Jersey, and looks forward to continuing the critical work with the BPU to increase public investment in solar access for low to moderate income households to ensure a clean energy future for all New Jersey families,” said Beth Galante, Senior VP of Business Development, PosiGen.
“This is an important step forward to let the sun shine on NJ’s solar program again, but it doesn’t go far enough. We need to be doing more to support customers living in underserved communities. This includes additional rooftop solar incentives for these communities. We should also be making it easier for folks living in overburdened communities to benefit from solar by removing unnecessary roadblocks,” said Taylor McFarland, Acting Director, Sierra Club New Jersey Chapter. “We also need to be doing more solar in general. We need to get to at least 15 GW by 2035 in order to reach the EMP’s goal of 32.2 GW of solar by 2050.”