Governor Christie this week touted 1,000 megawatts of solar, while New Jersey dropped to number three in solar installations. For nearly two decades we were second to California, but we have now been out installed this year by Arizona who has 710 megawatts and New Jersey only has 414 megawatts.
New Jersey also has dropped from first in solar per capita to fourth. We have dropped from second to fourth in residential solar and second to fifth in utility solar under Governor Christie. Given what has happened with Christie policies it may be a long time when we hit 1,000 megawatts installed again, while California is doing it every year.
The dramatic decrease in solar was due to the policies of the Christie administration. Our industry is struggling to stay afloat because the Christie administration continues to undermine the program taking away money from renewable energy and not expanding our Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. These actions are now showing to have consequences with New Jersey dropping on the list of solar installations costing New Jersey jobs, while hurting our environment.
We are now seeing the impacts of Governor Christie’s policies with the drop of solar installations. Last month we only installed 17 megawatts, while in the past we were averaging 40 megawatts a month and in some months we actually hit 80 megawatts. Now we have Arizona surpassing us by 296 megawatts a year and California by 618 megawatts a year.
Not only has Arizona passed us, but other states are catching up like New York and Maryland. If things continue North Carolina will beat up next year on residential solar. At the rate we are going we are going to drop even further behind impacting New Jersey’s solar programs even more and the 5,000 jobs that depend on it. Unless our policies change we are going to see our solar energy program eclipsed by other states.
The policies of the Christie Administration are why solar installation has dropped in New Jersey. Governor Christie has basically gotten rid of the solar rebates in our state. The Administration has eliminated the rebates for families and residents to put solar on their homes and have made it difficult for small projects to get Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs).
In addition the Governor has been diverting money that could have gone towards solar and offshore wind projects for his budget. Christie has taken $152 million this year and $720 million total from the Clean Energy Fund that would help to fund renewable energy projects. The Governor has given $2 billion to subsidies for natural gas power plants, while eliminating programs for solar and renewable energy.
The original Energy Master Plan calls for 22.5% Renewable Portfolio Standard, but what we really need is a 30% Renewable Portfolio Standard, which will give us the long term fix we need to fix the solar program in our state. When the Governor announced we would be pulling out of RGGI and released his EMP there was a drop in the cost of solar credits. New Jersey was on track to meet the aggressive clean energy goals, but all of these factors will cost the state green jobs and economic stability, critical pollution reductions, and energy independence.
We were exceeding our goals and then the solar market almost collapsed. Last year the legislature had to pass legislation to prevent the complete collapse of the solar market and with it the 5000 jobs. New Jersey SRECs were reaching historic lows and the law was to help to reverse that trend and stabilize these credits.
However, all it did was a stabilization of a market that has been declining dramatically. With this bill we are going to see a sunrise not a sunset. This was only a temporary stabilization, but what we really need is a long term fix like raising the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which the Governor has failed to do.
In order for New Jersey’s solar program to rebound, New Jersey must support and expand our clean energy targets and programs. We need legislation that will bring our Renewable Portfolio Standard back to 30% since New Jersey was on track to meet that goal and could potentially go beyond that.
A study by American Security Project found New Jersey could generate at least 31% of its electricity from renewable sources. However Governor Christie’s EMP and energy policies have hurt New Jersey’s residents and clean energy companies, undermining clean energy programs and economic growth, and will cost New Jersey jobs.
Ultimately this drop in solar installations is not only hurting the environment, but hurting our economy. The Governor by playing to the Tea Party and fossil fuel industry has not only hurt solar, but is hurting New Jersey at a time when we need the jobs and clean energy. This is undermining of New Jersey’s solar program hurts our ability to rebuild after Sandy in a more sustainable and resilient way.