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Op-Ed: Helping New Jerseyans Take Control of Where Their Electricity Comes From

The way electricity is consumed and produced is changing. We no longer need to rely on large, centralized generation to keep the lights on

Curt Macysyn
Curt Macysyn

When Gov. Phil Murphy signs legislation (S-2314/A-3723) that supports our ability to benefit from solar energy, he will empower Garden State residents to be active participants in the energy market. A strong solar market can help all New Jersey residents lower their electric bill by choosing a clean-energy source.

The way electricity is consumed and produced is changing. We no longer need to rely on large, centralized generation to keep the lights on. Technology advances like solar energy enable individuals and businesses to produce their own electricity, at less cost than if we were forced to buy from our utility.

Our state is smart to recognize this as a benefit for all New Jersey residents.

The new law does three important things. It ensures solar owners receive fair compensation for the electricity they generate. It stabilizes New Jersey’s solar market by recognizing the value solar provides to all New Jersey residents. And it creates a pathway for all New Jersey residents to take a stake in solar energy.

When a solar system produces more electricity than a home uses, the excess is sent out through the electric meter to neighbors. Solar owners receive compensation for this electricity through a billing system called net metering. Net metering provides a one-to-one credit to solar owners for this electricity.

New Jersey currently caps the amount of solar energy that utilities must compensate through net metering at 2.9 percent of the total electricity load. The legislation under consideration would raise this arbitrary cap to 5.8 percent. Raising the cap is a fair change that will ensure more New Jerseyans can go solar. Utilities wouldn’t give away their electricity for less than it costs, neither should New Jersey solar owners.

The legislation will also increase our state’s target for renewable energy generation to 50 percent by 2030. This target recognizes the environmental benefits solar provides. Harnessing the sun’s energy to produce electricity reduces air pollution, which poses a serious health threat in our region. According to the American Lung Association, northern New Jersey is the nation’s ninth most polluted area, and the Philadelphia-Reading-Camden region is the 22nd most polluted region. This pollution is linked to higher rates of childhood asthma and respiratory disease.

The new law also empowers the state Board of Public Utilities to authorize community solar projects. Community solar allows people who are unable to install solar panels (such as renters or homeowners with shady roofs) to invest in a nearby solar facility and benefit from solar energy just as they would if the panels were on their own roof. Initially, there will be a three-year community solar pilot project, after which time community solar becomes permanent law. Along the way, the BPU will be promulgating regulations to ensure fairness and transparency.

For more information about residential solar power in the Garden State, and how you can add your voice for solar, visit the Solar United Neighbors website.

Curt Macysyn is the program director for Solar United Neighbors, a 501(c)3 nonprofit that’s a network of people taking control of their energy needs by installing solar and generating their own electricity.

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