A tale of two states: Solar credit crashes in N.J. and Pa.

    The price of solar energy credits in Pennsylvania and New Jersey both crashed in 2011.  Fueled by the combination of state and federal incentives, so many people added solar panels to their homes and businesses that the values of these credits tanked. 

    Last summer, New Jersey enacted a law aimed at bolstering the solar industry by accelerating how soon state utility companies had to buy more power from solar energy producers.

    Today, new solar installations are still down from previous highs. But, said Dennis Wilson, head of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Industries Association, it did have a positive impact on SRECs — those solar energy credits. “The law did help create a sense that there will be more demand for SRECs, so SREC prices didn’t drop really below the $70 range,” Wilson said.

    A far cry from the $600 they used to fetch, but the law did prevent a total tailspin.

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    No similar measure in Pennsylvania

    Similar legislation in the Pennsylvania House died in committee last session. Solar proponents including Rep. Greg Vitali say this session is unlikely to be any more friendly to solar-boosting bills.   “It undoubtedly is a very difficult political climate,” Vitali said. Still, that is not stopping him from trying. In the next few weeks, he plans to introduce legislation that would nearly double the percentage of renewable energy utilities are required to buy, to 15 percent by 2023.  

    “It very well may be we need a new governor in 2014 to get this done,” Vitali said. “But I think you have to keep plugging … it’s a marathon.” The price of a solar credit in Pennsylvania dropped from around $300 a few years ago to $12 this month, slowing solar industry activity in the state to a trickle.

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