The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) has highlighted a banner year for New Jersey’s solar market—which surpassed 150,000 installed systems in 2021—and is preparing for continued growth in 2022 and beyond. The state’s goal to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2050 has fueled momentum for renewable energy in the Garden State, where solar capacity is estimated to double over the next four years.
In 2021, despite ongoing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, over 13,800 solar installations commenced commercial operations in New Jersey, totaling more than 305 MWdc and contributing to a statewide cumulative capacity exceeding 3.8 GW, providing power for over 150,000 New Jersey homes and businesses. A record of over 1.6 GW of projects in the pipeline provides assurances of continued strong development over the coming year.
“After a tremendous year, the future is especially bright for solar energy in New Jersey, and that’s because of our emphasis on working collaboratively with stakeholders to develop policies that advance our ambitious clean energy goals while supporting overall market health,” said NJBPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso.
“By modernizing our solar programs over the past year and maintaining our focus on ratepayer affordability, we are ensuring the strength and long-term viability of New Jersey’s thriving solar industry,” Fiodaliso said. “We are also looking ahead to the development of new programs for grid-scale and dual-use solar, as well as a permanent program for community solar. I am incredibly proud of how far we have come, and even more excited for the continued growth of solar in the years to come.”
New Jersey’s solar market achieved various major policy milestones throughout 2021, including transitioning from the State’s legacy Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) market to a new long-term incentive through the Successor Solar Incentive (SuSI) Program.
The SuSI Program is comprised of a competitive incentive for grid supply and net-metered projects greater than 5 MW, and a fixed incentive primarily for net-metered projects under 5 MW and community solar projects. Board Staff will continue its stakeholder engagement over the coming months to define the competitive process. Once fully implemented, the SuSI Program is anticipated to provide incentives to twice the amount of annual installed solar, at approximately half the per-megawatt-hour cost to ratepayers.
The Transition Incentive (TI) Program, which closed to new registrations on August 27, 2021, set a new record with over 12,570 projects in the pipeline seeking incentives for over 1,600 MWdc of capacity. This includes the 105 new community solar applications granted conditional approval to participate in Program Year 2 of the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program. These community solar projects represent 165 MWdc in planned capacity, more than twice the amount of capacity approved in Program Year 1.
In 2021, the Board also initiated a Grid Modernization Proceeding to engage stakeholders on current distribution grid interconnection policies and processes, and to solicit ideas for potential improvements to enable faster grid modernization and higher levels of distributed energy resource (DER) integration.
Staff expects another busy year in 2022 as the Board works to develop and launch several new solar programs, including the SuSI Program’s Competitive Solar Incentive (CSI) Program for grid supply and large net-metered solar, a Dual-Use pilot program, and a permanent community solar program.
In July 2021, Governor Murphy signed both the Solar Act of 2021 (Solar Act, L. 2021, c. 169), which sets a framework for ongoing growth in the grid supply, net-metered, and community solar markets, as well as the Dual Use Solar Act (L. 2021, c. 170), which directs the Board to establish a pilot program for installing solar on unpreserved farmland while maintaining active agricultural or horticultural operations. Throughout 2022, and in close collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Board will conduct robust stakeholder engagement to gather input from New Jersey solar market participants on the implementation of both laws.
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