Fine Print: Public Service Electric & Gas’ New Solar Filing

$1 billion plan would extend installation of solar panels on homes and businesses

What it is: A nearly $1 billion plan to extend the PSE&G’s program of installing solar panels on homes and businesses throughout the state, by far the most aggressive of any of the four state electric utilities.

Total spending: $883 million over a five-year period if approved by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities in a filing submitted to the state regulatory agency earlier this summer.

Total megawatts: Under the utility’s proposal, it would build 233 megawatts of new solar capacity in the state, a target it says will help New Jersey meet very aggressive goals to increase the amount of electricity produced by renewable forms of energy.

How it breaks down: The bulk of the spending — $690 million — would be targeted to build grid-connected solar projects, which supply power to the regional power grid.

What it would cost consumers: The program would cost consumers about 68 cents more each year on its electric bill, according to the PSE&G filing.

Where the money would go: The filing proposes that most of the investment ($474 million) would go to build grid-supply projects on landfills and brownfields, a recommendation, which fits neatly with the goals of a new energy master plan adopted by the Christie administration.

Other grid-supply projects: The utility also is seeking approval to build 25 megawatts of solar arrays over large parking lots at a cost of $133 million and another 20 megawatts of solar systems on top of warehouse roofs at a cost of $74 million. Another $9 million would be spent on developing 1 megawatt of projects that demonstrate innovative solar energy technologies.

What else is PSE&G proposing: The Newark utility wants to extend a popular solar loan program that helped businesses and homeowner install solar systems. The program would spend another $194 million to develop 97 megawatts of new solar arrays on those facilities.

What that would cost: In the filing, the utility says the program would cost 16 cents per year to cover the program. The interest on the residential loans, however, would by 11.852 percent. The utility’s net return on investment of $883 million would be 8.21 percent.

What are the environmental benefits: According to PSE&G’s filings, the solar extension filing would provide power to an estimated 21,500 homes, result in the equivalent of 19,700 cars being removed from the road, and eliminate more than 100,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, one of the leading causes of global climate change.

Is this gong to pass regulatory scrutiny: Uncertain if the entire program gets approved. The New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel has continued to raise questions about the big money being spent, largely supported by electric customers, to support the state’s aggressive clean energy goals. The same concerns have frequently been raised by business interests, particularly those who represent companies that use large amounts of electricity and natural gas.