It once seemed as if New Jersey had its own printing press, running off grants and loans to fund a multitude of clean energy programs. With a variety of funds to draw upon, the state vaulted to second in the nation, behind only California, in the number of solar installations. It also had enough left over to fund pilot offshore-wind projects.
Those good times are over. More than $400 million in clean energy funds were diverted by the Christie administration this past year to help plug a big hole in the state budget. With a grim budget outlook next year, the state Board of Public Utilities is looking to retool its energy efficiency and renewable energy programs to get more bang out of its buck.
While still early in the process, the wide-ranging nature of the discussions to date suggest big changes are in store for the programs. Will a surcharge on customers’ gas and electric bill be reduced to reflect the BPU’s smaller ambitions? Do smaller solar businesses get squeezed out if the majority of money in the program is allocated to mega-solar farms? Can we expect scaled-back prospects for solar and wind power — as well as reduced energy consumption — when the Christie administration finishes revamping New Jersey’s energy master plan?
All of those issues likely will create plenty of debate in and around Trenton this fall. Here’s some summer reading to find out where the fights are likely to occur: