One week after former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie vetoed a bill that would have raised the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and increased the solar-specific carve-out, the legislature has set out to make the changes in a new piece of legislation, S592.
In both this bill and the former one, New Jersey’s solar carve-out with the overall RPS would rise 4.6% next year and 5.3% for 2020-2021.
Christie used a little-used legislative maneuver called the “pocket veto,” which only applies to bills passed within the last 10 days of a two-year legislative session and is not subject to being overturned by the legislature, in contrast to a regular veto.
Without the power to override Christie’s veto, the state legislature had to reintroduce the legislation in the new session. It’s expected to sail through the legislative process, given the overwhelming support the previous version of the bill had during the last session.
The provisions of the bill remain the same through 2021 as the previous legislation, but starting 2024 the solar carve-out in the RPS would begin a gradual decline from 5.3% until it reaches a low of 0.33% in 2033.
It’s no surprise the revived legislation was introduced so quickly. In the wake of Christie’s veto, observers had said the solar industry only has six to eight months to get new legislation passed before the market begins to suffer.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, whose administration is only a week old, made environmental protection a centerpiece of his campaign last year, so if S592 passes the legislature again, it’s expected to be signed into law.
What made Christie’s sneaky veto so unexpected was that he oversaw New Jersey’s ascension into the No. 2 position – behind only California – of having the most installed solar capacity earlier this decade. The state has since been supplanted by North Carolina and has fallen to fifth place on the most recent list.