August 7, 2012

Utility proposal to New Jersey solar bill

New Jersey's PSE&G will request permission to allocate $883 million dollars of additional investment to solar power, CEO Ralph Izzo announced on Tuesday. The money would more than double the utility's current $700 million commitment to the solar sector and would be used to create an additional 233 megawatts of capacity in the state. The proposal represents a 28% increase in New Jersey's current solar capacity.

The announcement comes on the heals of a new law designed to boost demand for solar investment by upping the proportion of solar power that New Jersey utilities are required to purchase. Governor Chris Christie, who signed the bipartisan bill into law last month, was standing next to Izzo when he made the announcement. reports that the Governor commented, "I'm proud that this is happening without the heavy hand of government... it's happening in a partnership between the private sector and government."

Of the proposed $883 million dollars, approximately $690 million would go to expanding the pre-existing Solar-4-All program, which focuses on attaching solar panels to existing utility poles, building solar farms on brownout sites, and installing panels on municipal structures. The remaining money would be used to fund solar installation loans to private parties. The loans charge 11.85% interest, and can be paid either with cash or by transfer of the solar credits generated by the installation from the private party to PSE&G.

The proposal requires approval because it would result in a rate hike on consumer's power bills amounting to seven cents a month for the average consumer. The head of the New Jersey Rates council has pledged to look into the impact this price increase will have on consumers, but if the rate increase is approved, it will serve as evidence that the private sector can and will respond quickly to increase power production from solar energy if given the proper incentives.

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