The state plans to continue a popular program in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, offering residents and businesses enhanced incentives to replace storm-destroyed appliances with more energy-efficient equipment.
The program, financed by the New Jersey Office of Clean Energy, boosted efficiency incentives by as much as 50 percent for residents, businesses, and local governments recovering from the storm. For many, it has meant recovering more quickly from the devastation of the storm, with a lot less money taken out of their savings.
In the first three months of the storm-response program, the agency processed more than 1,250 applications and committed more than $2.35 million in incentives to help rebuild homes and businesses using energy-efficient technologies, according to the office.
The proposed funding is part of a draft 2014 budget for the Clean Energy Program, which is overseen by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. The bulk of the $266 million budget, financed by surcharges on gas and electric customers’ bills, will be directed to energy efficiency projects ($200 million).
As in the past, the 2014 budget includes a large carryover of money raised by ratepayers ($221 million), a practice that has triggered criticism of the agency in the past and led to appropriation of that money from lawmakers and the Christie administration. In the prior three years, those appropriations from clean energy funds have totaled more than $800 million. In the current fiscal year, the administration is proposing to divert another $194 million.
With the Jersey Shore still struggling to recover from Sandy, the enhanced incentives program has been well received and its “positive impact will continue to expand as the rebuilding process moves forward,’’ BPU President Bob Hanna said in a press release issued last month.
The program is providing incentives of $50 to $500 to help residents pay for new energy-efficient furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, gas water heaters, central air conditioners, clothes washers, and refrigerators. Additionally, an entire new line of incentives was introduced to help with the replacement of food service equipment.
The incentive helped Anthony Baldino, owner of the Boathouse Restaurant in Beach Haven, rebound from the storm. His restaurant was inundated with 5 feet of water, destroying kitchen equipment and furnishings, which the staff had spent many hours raising before the storm made landfall.
“Energy consumption is a huge concern, especially in a seasonal business like ours where we don’t have a full year to recoup our investment,’’ Baldino said, adding that the incentives were very helpful in offsetting some of the equipment replacement costs.
“The equipment is already onsite and ready for use.’’
The program also has helped homeowners.
Donna Schamber, a resident of Long Beach Island, said her boiler and water heater were destroyed after the storm. After her contractor made Schamber aware of incentives through the clean energy program and New Jersey Natural Gas, she replaced the equipment with a high-efficiency boiler and tankless water heater.
“Once we realized the rebates were substantial, the decision to purchase high-efficiency equipment made our decision much easier,’’ she said. Schamber received $2,100 in incentives — $900 from New Jersey Natural Gas and $1,200 from the state’s clean energy program.
The latest straw proposal offered by the agency also budgets $30 million to incent new development of combined heat and power (CHP) plants, which produce electricity and heat simultaneously, lowering the cost of energy where the facilities are located. In the wake of Sandy, the Christie administration views the plants as a way to reduce widespread outages, including to important facilities, such as hospitals and water- and waste-water treatment facilities.
The state is holding a hearing on the proposed budget in Trenton at 401 East Street in the Department of Environmental Protection building on Thursday, May 23, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.