The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) announced it has received more than 300 applications for the Community Solar Energy Program (CSEP), totaling more than 300 MW of new solar capacity. The Board opened the application window for the state’s new, permanent community solar program on November 15, 2023, with a 225 MW capacity block available for development for Energy Year (EY) 2024, representing the first opportunity for developers to participate since establishing the CSEP.
“I am thrilled at the amount of interest we have received in the first year of our permanent community solar energy program, a major achievement for advancing our equitable clean energy transition,” said NJBPU President Christine Guhl-Sadovy. “Community solar allows those who live in low- and moderate-income communities or cannot otherwise access solar due to their location, to reap the benefits of renewable energy and save money on their bills.”
The CSEP builds on the success of the two-year pilot program in advancing equity within the solar sector. New community solar projects will be sited in all four major utility service territories, and this year’s program capacity will support enough community solar projects to enroll about 30,000 New Jersey subscribers.
Importantly, the Board is requiring all community solar projects serve a minimum of 51% low- to moderate-income (LMI) subscribers, as measured by capacity subscribed. This is one of the boldest low-income requirements in the country, ensuring that the benefits of the clean energy transition are realized by LMI households. The definition of LMI subscribers in the permanent program remains consistent with the definitions given in the Pilot Program rules.
Community solar subscribers will be guaranteed a minimum discount on their utility bill. Projects must state a guaranteed bill credit discount of no less than 15% in their registration, which will apply for the duration of customers’ subscription. Projects may choose to offer a greater discount, including special discounts to LMI subscribers and projects with greater discounts will be given priority if program capacity is exceeded during an initial registration period. Subscribers will receive the guaranteed discount for the portion of their electricity bill that is covered by their community solar subscription, typically 90% or more.
During the initial CSEP registration period, applications for the Public Service Electric & Gas service territory exceeded the 129 MW of capacity available, and no further registrations will be accepted until the Board allocates additional capacity.
The blocks for the Jersey Central Power & Light, Atlantic City Electric Company, and Rockland Electric Company service territories did not reach capacity during the initial registration period. These blocks will reopen on December 12 to new registrations until they are full. Approximate capacities subscribed and remaining will be posted on the program website.
Since the Governor and Legislature created the Community Solar Pilot Program in 2018, the Board has approved 150 projects totaling 243 MW of capacity. To date, 88 of those projects, totaling 130 MW, have reached commercial operation, which provide over 16,000 New Jersey households the benefits of solar power, including financial savings.
Residents interested in subscribing to a community solar project may search the Board’s Community Solar Project Finder for projects that serve their area.
The CSEP permits community solar projects of no greater than 5 MW on rooftops, carports and canopies over impervious surfaces, contaminated sites and landfills and certain bodies of water such as water treatment reservoirs and dredge ponds. The Board anticipates opening a second application period for at least an additional 225 MW in EY 2025, which begins on June 1, 2024.
News item from NJBPU