N.J. considers raising quota for solar power generation

Solar panels that were recently placed on the roof of the building supplying energy to the AirTrain at Newark Liberty International Airport are seen as the train rolls by, Thursday, April 24, 2014, in Newark, N.J. According to The Port Authority of NY and NJ, the 3,200-solar panel installation spread among four building rooftops will supply the airport with 0.7 MW, equivalent to powering 61 homes with electricity, conserving 992 barrels of oil or removing 90 passenger vehicles from the road each year. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Solar panels that were recently placed on the roof of the building supplying energy to the AirTrain at Newark Liberty International Airport are seen as the train rolls by, Thursday, April 24, 2014, in Newark, N.J. According to The Port Authority of NY and NJ, the 3,200-solar panel installation spread among four building rooftops will supply the airport with 0.7 MW, equivalent to powering 61 homes with electricity, conserving 992 barrels of oil or removing 90 passenger vehicles from the road each year. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

A measure to increase the percentage of solar energy required to be generated each year could get final legislative approval in the New Jersey Assembly on Monday.

The legislation would help stabilize the price of renewable energy credits that go to installers of solar arrays who then sell them in an open market, according to Lyle Rawlings, president of the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association.

“If this SREC [solar renewable energy credit] market crashes, it could mean thousands of solar energy workers could be out of a job,” he said.

New Jersey Rate Counsel director Stefanie Brand is concerned ratepayers will have to pick up the tab for $276 million in additional subsidies for solar installations.

“Certainly we want to encourage the development of the solar industry in New Jersey, but we want to make sure that we don’t pay more than we need to,” she said. “Right now, we’re getting about 4 percent of our energy needs covered by solar. If we’re going to pay so much money for such a small portion of our load, we’re not going to have money to spend on some other things we need to do like energy efficiency.”

If the measure is not enacted, Rawlings said, it could be difficult for New Jersey homeowners to get solar panels on their rooftops.

He’s not sure whether Gov. Chris Christie would sign the measure.

“We don’t necessarily think that Christie will view it with favor,” Rawlings said. “In any case, a long-term signal for solar energy out to the future to combat climate change is something we’re really looking for the next governor to help with.”

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