NJ Gov. Christie likely to sign solar “Resurrection Bill”

Astor Chocolate solar installation in New JerseyIn a bit of a reversal, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he is likely to sign new legislation to that will reinvigorate the state’s solar industry. The so-called “Resurrection Bill” would increase the amount of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECS) that electric distributors must by in the next few years.

New Jersey’s solar industry, which is currently the fastest growing in the country, is suffering from too much solar for the SREC market to handle, leading to over-saturation, which has dropped the value of SRECs. In the years between 2008 and 2010, the state had less solar than it needed under the state’s renewable portfolio standard. “The shortage attracted a lot of new participants and a a lot attention. That combined with 1603 greatly widened the customer base,” said Dennis Wilson, president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association’s (MSEIA’s) board of directors and founder of Renewable Power Inc. “That caused the industry to boom in 2010 and 2011. We’ve become overbuilt.” 

The overbuilding of the industry resulted in a significant drop in value of the SRECs.

“It took them from a shortage level of $600 an SREC to down to 100 per SREC,” Wilson said. “What the industry is faced with is the overhang of several hundred megawatts of solar.”

Under the state’s renewable portfolio standard electric companies would have to purchase more SRECs in future years, but not now. The current bill would move SREC requirements from future years and make them available as soon as energy year 2014, which starts in June 2013. “It will soak up some of the several hundred megawatts of extra solar,” Wilson said. 

Christie had opposed a previous version of the bill. But his administration has helped craft the bill, according to Wilson. “We expect him to sign it. In public forums when he was asked about the solar bill if the legislature gives him a bill he’s going to sign it,” he said. “The 10,000 or so jobs in New Jersey that would be lost, certainly had an impact on the Governor’s thinking. I don’t think he wanted to preside over the loss of so many jobs.”

As part of the Governor’s involvement, there are some provisions in the current bill that weren’t in previous legislation designed to help control growth in the market. The SREC expansion would be limited to 80 megawatts a year for each of the next three years. Beyond that it allows municipalities and governments in New Jersey to aggregate net-metering or have a PV system at a location be used to offset electric use at its locations within five miles. 

Ultimately the state could do with more solar, according to Wilson. “We believe that the solar commitment in the current legislation should be greatly enlarged,” he said.