The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) established the Competitive Solar Incentive (CSI) program, a new program designed to encourage grid scale solar generation in the Garden State. CSI is a key part of the state’s Successor Solar Incentive initiative (SuSI), which was enacted by the board in 2021, and is expected to significantly increase the state’s solar program at a lower cost for ratepayers. The order states that the goal of the program is to “continue the fight against climate change by increasing the supply of electricity that New Jersey consumers receive from clean solar energy and to bring down the costs of solar generation in the state.
The new CSI program has a goal of incentivizing at least 300 MW of solar annually until 2026. The program will be open to qualifying grid supply solar installations and non-residential net metered solar installations with a capacity greater than 5 MW, as well as to eligible grid supply solar installations in combination with energy storage.
New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy has committed to 100% clean energy by 2050 and at least 50% Class I Renewable Energy Credits by 2030.
“The CSI program is a vital component of our new SuSI program and will play a major part in helping us meet our solar goals while decreasing costs to ratepayers,” said Joseph L. Fiordaliso, president of NJBPU. “Our growing solar program, which not only includes CSI and [Administratively Determined Incentive] ADI but also Community Solar, is one of the core programs in achieving Governor Murphy’s goal of a 100% clean energy future.”
Over 6,000 people work in the solar industry in New Jersey, a state that currently has 4 GW of solar installed, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
“SEIA is pleased that the BPU took significant parts of the solar industry’s comments into account in its final design of the Competitive Solar Incentive (CSI) program,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of state and regulatory affairs for SEIA. “The guidelines released today establish a competitive solicitation process for 300 megawatts (MW) of annual large-scale solar development in New Jersey, as well as targeted procurement of 160 MWh of energy storage paired with grid-scale solar per year.”
The order states that, “While the economic and environmental benefits of New Jersey’s first 4 GW of solar have been significant, the combined effect of the SuSI Program is expected to have an even larger impact.”
The new program structure has separate categories, or tranches, to ensure that a range of solar project types, including those on preferred sites, are able to participate despite potentially different project cost profiles. The board approved four tranches for grid supply and large net metered solar and an additional fifth tranche for storage in combination with grid supply solar.
After receiving an award in the solicitation, CSI projects will have three years to come on-line. The CSI program design has siting requirements that apply to all projects in the program, regardless of whether they actually seek an incentive. These requirements follow stipulations laid out in the Solar Act of 2021 and establish construction requirements designed to uphold the mandate to “minimize, as much as is practicable, potential adverse environmental impacts.”
“The structuring of the CSI program will ensure that a range of competitive solar project types can participate, despite potentially different project cost profiles,” said Gallagher. “SEIA and its members are evaluating the program’s construction and siting requirements, including new standards for pollinator-friendly ground-mounted projects and various land development restrictions. Establishing a workable siting process is critical for the solar industry to achieve the CSI program’s goal for 1,500 MW of large-scale solar capacity by the end of the decade.”
Solicitations will take place annually, and all projects that meet pre-qualification requirements will compete on price only. The first solicitation is scheduled to take place early 2023, with bids due on March 31, 2023.
In addition to CSI, the SuSI program consists of the ADI program, which set incentives for net-metered residential projects, net-metered non-residential projects of 5 MW or less, and community solar projects.
Once fully implemented, the Order states that the new SuSI Program “will be an important part of New Jersey’s continued national leadership in the battle against climate change and cement the State of New Jersey as a magnet for green jobs”.
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