New Jersey Board of Public Utilities makes Community Solar Pilot Program permanent

More than 50 N.J. groups celebrate equitable access to clean energy

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities recently voted to establish a permanent Community Solar Program. The decision was facilitated following two years of a successful pilot program.

“By building on the successes of our nation-leading Community Solar Program, we will continue to expand access among New Jersey families to the significant benefits of clean energy,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “For far too long, those benefits — both environmental and financial — have remained out of reach for many of our low- and moderate-income residents, including renters. Thanks to programs like these, which prioritize the equitable and inclusive adoption of clean energy, we will continue to ensure that no New Jerseyan, regardless of their ZIP code, is left behind in our pursuit of a clean energy future.”

The permanent program rules will increase equitable access to clean energy by meaningfully eliminating barriers for low- and moderate-income residents to participate.

Expanding equitable access to clean energy is particularly important because LMI communities, especially communities of color, face disproportionately high utility bills and exposure to air pollution from fossil fuels, often with serious impacts on health and well-being. These inequities are further exacerbated every day that delays the transition to 100% clean energy.

Since the governor and Legislature created the Community Solar Pilot Program in 2018, the board approved 150 projects totaling 243 megawatts of capacity. To date, 29 of those projects, totaling 50 MW, have reached commercial operation and provide over 6,000 New Jersey households the benefits of solar power, including financial savings. The board expects another 97 projects to begin serving customers within the next several months.

“I am thrilled that the board has made our extremely popular and successful Community Solar Program permanent,” NJBPU President Joseph Fiordaliso said. “At the heart of it, community solar is about unlocking access to clean energy for many residents, especially in low- to moderate-income communities and in urban areas where residential rooftop and ground mount solar are not possible. Today’s action will help more New Jerseyans reap the benefits of our clean energy transition and help combat the devastating and worsening impacts of climate change.”

New Jersey’s Community Solar Energy Program allows those who rent, lack control of their roof, live in a multifamily building, do not have property suitable for solar, or cannot afford the cost of a solar installation to benefit from the cost savings and access to clean energy through solar power.

The board is requiring all community solar projects serve a minimum of 51% LMI subscribers, as measured by capacity subscribed.

With its vote, the board has also ensured that 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’ subscriptions.

The board anticipates opening the application window for a 225 MW capacity block for Energy Year 2024 in November. The board will open a second application period for an additional at least 225 MW in EY 2025, which begins on June 1, 2024.

New projects will be sited in all four major utility service territories, and this year’s program will support enough community solar projects to enroll about 30,000 New Jersey subscribers.