New Jersey passes wide-ranging energy legislation on solar, batteries and nuclear power

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While states like California, New York and Hawaii have taken the lead in setting ambitious renewable energy policies, a number of smaller states in the Northeast have not been far behind. And now with former governor Chris Christie (R) gone out of office in New Jersey, the state is poised to retake its position among leaders.

Yesterday the New Jersey House and Senate passed a bill to set one of the most ambitious renewable energy mandates in the nation, paired with one of the most ambitious energy storage goals. Simultaneously the House and Senate approved a bill to provide subsidies to the state’s aging nuclear power plants, which supply nearly half the state’s electricity.

Murphy is expected to sign the renewable energy bill, based on campaign rhetoric strongly in favor of renewable energy. pv magazine was not able to determine his position on the nuclear bailout bill by press time.

 

RPS overhaul, solar & energy storage targets

The first bill, A 3723, will increase New Jersey’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 50% by 2030, putting New Jersey new in a three-way tie for the third-most ambitious renewable energy mandate with California and New York. Only Hawaii (100% by 2045) and Vermont (75% by 2032) have more aggressive targets.

But that is far from all that A 3723 does. It also requires generators to source an increasing amount of their electricity from behind-the-meter solar, to reach 5.1% by 2021.  This is the most ambitious target for distributed solar in the United States, exceeding even New Mexico’s 4% distributed solar mandate.

The bill also schedules the closure of the state’s Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) program in 2021, and directs regulators to being a process to come up with a new program to support distributed solar, and an “orderly transition” away from SRECs.

Additionally, the bill will require state regulators to design a pilot program for community solar, that must be converted to a full-scale program no more than three years after the pilot program is established.

Finally, the bill sets a target for the state to reach 600 MW of energy storage by 2021 and 2 GW by 2030, along with studies regarding how this energy storage will benefit ratepayers and mechanisms to support its deployment.

A 3723 was applauded by the solar and energy storage industries.

“With this vote, lawmakers have reinforced New Jersey’s position as a solar leader,” said Anne Hoskins, chief policy officer of Sunrun. “New Jersey is paving the way for a future where citizens can create, store, and share solar power with their neighbors and make our energy system more affordable, clean, and reliable for the whole community.”

Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) notes that the bill protects an estimated “thousands” of solar jobs which have been at risk due to the expiration of targets under the state’s current solar policy.

 

Nuclear bailout

A 3723 was not the only bill to pass the New Jersey legislature yesterday. S 2313 requires regulators to establish a “zero emissions credit” (ZEC) program to provide financial support to the state’s aging fleet of nuclear power plants. This is similar to programs that have passed in Illinois and New York State, often in tandem with renewable energy measures.

In order to qualify for these ZECs, such plants will need to be licensed through 2030. As such it may be unlikely to save the 49-year old 608 MW Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant, which is scheduled to retire in 2019. However, it may provide subsidies and extend the lifetime of the combined 3.5 GW at the Hope Creek and Salem nuclear power plants, whose three reactors were put online between 32 and 41 years ago.

In-state nuclear plants supplied enough electricity to meet 42% of the state’s electric demand in 2017, accounting for a standard 10% transmission loss.