Archive for June, 2010

New Jersey Solar Installations Still on the Rise – But For How Long?

New Jersey has been forging ahead on the solar scene. The New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program was boosting employment for contractors and sub-contractors in the state, according to recent reports from the NJ Spotlight; however, budget cuts with funds being diverted from the clean energy program to solve other budgetary issues has caused that spike to drop off sharply. A portion of the story, published in March, related:

Ed Hutchinson figures his heating and air conditioning business would be a lot less robust. He might even employ up to 60 fewer people than the 200 now working for Hutchinson Mechanical Services in Cherry Hill. That’s why he and at least a dozen other contractors showed up in Trenton today to protest deep cuts in the program, an initiative that gives rebates and other incentives to homeowners and businesses to dramatically curb how much energy they use. “We should further invest here because we’re putting people to work,” Hutchinson told the Board of Public Utilities commissioners at the state Department of Environmental Protection building.

These comments were made at a hearing concerning the diversion of $158 million in funds from the clean energy program; although the state’s precarious financial position is understood by most, the prevailing majority who spoke up at the meeting  protested the move and said there had to be a better way to balance the state budget. In addition to the confiscation of clean energy funds, $128 million was diverted from the Retail Margin Fund, which was earmarked to build more energy efficient power plants, and another $65 million taken from a fund designed to combat greenhouse gases.

The BPU will rule on whether or not to downsize the state’s energy efficiency program later this year, but in the meantime the latest round of funding for photovoltaic installations was claimed inside of a week. Many local New Jersey players are concerned that the state’s previous commitment to clean energy may be faltering; New Jersey is solidly at #2 among the states in terms of solar installations, and was anticipated to eventually pass California (currently #1). Quotes include a vast array of contractors, clean energy advocates and concerned citizens:

  • Bruce Grossman, program manager for South Jersey Gas: [sic] reducing incentives in the energy efficiency program will have a “chilling effect on economic momentum in the marketplace.”
  • Grace Sica, Sierra Club of New Jersey: “We’re setting New Jersey’s green economy to flounder.”
  • John Conforti, of Air Group in Whippany (HVAC company:  “This program is working excellent.”
  • Sara Bluhm, a vice president of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association: [sic] more money needs to be invested in commercial solar installations and industrial projects where an $11 ROI is common compared to only a 4% ROI in residential installations.
  • Matt Elliott, clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey: “It sends a signal that maybe we are not as serious about clean energy as we say we are.

With utility prices continuing to climb, and rebates and incentives for solar installations still to be found elsewhere, many are still moving towards photovoltaic installation – but cutting funding will cause a slowdown. Arosa Solar in Lakewood New Jersey is already offering a ‘rebate’ to customers who missed the latest funding cycle, to keep customers coming in.

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