BPU Has Good News for Solar Developers: If It’s Solar, It’s Essential

State agency clarifies governor’s executive order, indicating that all solar initiatives — residential and commercial — are ‘essential construction projects’
Credit: (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
The solar sector in New Jersey and nationwide is reeling from the coronavirus pandemic.

It turns out putting up solar panels to generate electricity is an essential business — at least in New Jersey.

In a step to allay confusion in the sector, the state Board of Public Utilities has issued a statement clarifying that solar projects are considered “essential construction projects’’ under an executive order issued by Gov. Phil Murphy declaring a Public Health Emergency this past February.

In a short statement, the BPU clarified that solar projects fall within the parameters of Executive Order 122, which stipulated “utility projects, including those necessary for energy and electricity production and transmission’’ may continue construction during the emergency.

The clarification from the state agency that oversees the sector means all new and ongoing solar construction, including both commercial and residential projects, can move forward.

The executive order also included single-family homes putting up solar panels as being “essential,” but omitted any mention of larger commercial projects, creating some uncertainty in the sector.

“Solar is a critical and growing contributor to energy, notably clean energy, in the state, and energy provision is an essential service,’’ said BPU president Joseph Fiordaliso. “To eliminate any confusion, as some projects were continuing during this period and some were not, NJBPU is clarifying that all solar projects can move forward at this time.’’

Solar is a key component of the Murphy administration’s 100% clean-energy goal by mid-century. By then, 34% of the electricity consumed in New Jersey will come from solar panels.

“It was good for them to do this,’’ said Lyle Rawlings, founder of Advanced Solar Products. “For the commercial guys, it was not covered explicitly.’’

New Jersey’s solar sector is undergoing a transition as the state moves to close its current system for subsidizing solar with a still-undefined permanent program that will cost ratepayers less money. The staff of the BPU is expected to unveil a straw proposal on how it will finance new solar projects, possibly as soon as the end of the month.