Tag Archive: Alternative Energy

Christie sued for destroying solar market, costing jobs and closing businesses

The Christie administration has put their heavy hand down to raid the solar market piggy bank virtually collapsing an extremely successful program:

Many small, clean-energy businesses will have to shut their doors within a month because Gov. Christie is raiding the New Jersey Clean Energy Trust Fund of $158 million, which is intended to be used to create incentives for New Jersey consumers, houses of worship and commercial businesses to purchase and install solar energy systems and energy-efficient retrofits. Already, there is far less money for clean energy incentives, a major disruption in a nascent but promising industry, and little funding for the rest of year. The result will set back business plans and pending contracts that rely on these programs.

In place since 1999, the New Jersey Clean Energy Trust Fund has created a new renewable energy economic sector: clean energy jobs. It has created more than 260 new small and mid-size businesses and earned New Jersey the reputation of being a national leader in clean energy — but no longer. This large chunk of clean energy funds will be commingled into general state operations to fill the budget “gap.” It will cost the state clean energy jobs. Yet the 1999 law authorizing the trust fund and the New Jersey Clean Energy Program made it very clear that the money was to be used only to support the growth of renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Closing small businesses that are open, stopping the creation of new businesses, a loss of jobs and a set back in business plans. Is that really what the Christie administration is trying to tell us they want? The thing is, the money Christie is raiding to help balance the general budget isn’t even taxpayer dollars:

The New Jersey Clean Energy Program and its trust fund are completely funded by the state’s electricity and natural-gas ratepayers and do not use one cent of state money. No bond, appropriation, property tax or sales tax money is used. The 1999 law allowed part of the consumer benefit fee (the Societal Benefit Charge on every electric bill) to be used for the development of clean energy. That fee is collected and transferred to the New Jersey Clean Energy Trust Fund by the electricity utility companies.

We’ve already questioned the constitutionality of this money grab by the Christie administration here at Blue Jersey. We’re not alone as New Jersey’s solar trade association, the Mid-Atlantic Solar Energy Industries Association (MSEIA), has sued the Christie administration, saying that taking $158 million in clean energy funds is unconstitutional and that the governor or Legislature cannot appropriate funds into the state budget that are not state money. Hopefully the courts go along because this is yet another penny-wise and pound foolish decision by Christie that will end up hurting our state much more than helping in the long run.

Christie making government (Not) work and throwing the solar market into turmoil in the process

For all the complaining the Governor and Republicans do about failed government programs, you would think when they find one that is really working better than expected, they would keep it going. Instead, by raiding the clean energy fund to balance the budget, he’s created a money problem with a very successful solar energy program:

The state announced this week it will not accept new requests until September, throwing a portion of the solar energy market into turmoil. “We got the program fixed and back on track about two years ago,” Schultz said. Because of the diversion of funds, the state Office of Clean Energy had to scale back New Jersey’s aggressive clean energy and energy efficiency programs.

The administration’s cuts also led to the elimination of 29 energy efficiency and renewable energy programs run by the office, according to a lawsuit challenging the diversion of funds from a trade group representing solar power dealers. The group is contesting the administration’s diversion of $158 million in clean energy funds to help plug a hole in the current state budget.

This isn’t some problem that was building with a failed program, it was Christie made with his cash grab raiding the clean energy fund. It’s a self inflicted wound and his actions created a run on the market. Just how much damage has the Governor done:

Solar energy advocates were pushing for more money for the rebate program at a meeting with Michael Winka, director of the Office of Clean Energy on Tuesday, but Winka told them they could not expect the budget to be increased given the state’s budgetary problems, according to people who participated in the discussion.

It also revived questions about the state’s policies dealing with solar energy, according to Matt Elliott, clean energy advocate for Environment New Jersey. “The Governor has created uncertainty in New Jersey’s successful clean energy market, causing solar companies and efficiencies contractors to question its commitment to clean energy,” he said.

So is this how he plans to get to the less government he’s talking about? After years of building back up the solar market with state policies, Christie has created uncertainty and instability. I’ve already written about how I don’t believe Christie can take the $158 million from the clean energy fund in the first place. Now others are raising the same questions about whether the Governor overreached again. But even if groups win their challenge against the administration in court, the long term ramification to the industry are immeasurable because what business wants to invest when so many questions exist?

Corzine would have won if he had listened to me

Jon Corzine would have won last night if he had listened to me.  Four years ago, when the world was young and Jon Corzine was running for office I wrote an open letter to his web log in which I urged him to announce his intention of, upon becoming governor, initiating an Energy Race in the state of New Jersey along the lines of John Kennedy’s Space Race.

Awarding the nation’s 1st offshore wind leases

New Jersey seems to be helping lead the way with wind energy:

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday awarded five leases to four companies who want to develop windmills along the Outer Continental Shelf. The leases allow the companies to build meteorological towers to gather information about the wind six to 18 miles offshore.

[snip]

The exploratory leases, the first of their kind ever issued by the federal government, went to Bluewater Wind New Jersey Energy; Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey; Deepwater Wind, which is doing two projects; and Bluewater Wind Delaware.

“New Jersey’s Outer Continental Shelf is a resource that holds great promise for our energy independence and should be considered a haven for the clean, renewable and environmentally friendly energy that wind power provides,” Gov. Jon Corzine said.

And Jeff Tittel didn’t miss the opportuinty to deliver a one liner:

“We see this as a positive change from the Bush administration’s energy plan,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “We are moving from drill baby, drill, to wind baby, wind.”

Here’s video from the press conference announcing the leases:

The article says they hope to have the first meteorological tower up and running off the coast next summer. We may want to get Secretary Salazar a place to stay with all his visits to the state.

Rising Energy Costs have towns looking for savings

Now might be a good time for municipalities to take a second look at their energy expenses:

Mount Laurel, for instance, says it budgeted $360,000 for electricity in

its municipal buildings this year, up 28 percent from the previous year.

[…]

Evesham, Burlington County’s most populous town, budgeted $330,000 for utilities this year, an 18 percent increase from 2007, and anticipates spending $343,000 next year

I have no doubt that this problem is rearing its head across the state and the Board of Public Utilities has a program to try and help identify potential savings:

Audits completed according to the program requirements, first of all, are eligible to receive rebates of up to 75 percent of the cost of the audit. After that, if your local government goes on to actually implement recommendations from the energy audit and the work exceeds 25 percent of the cost of the audit, then you can qualify for an additional rebate of that 25 percent. In effect, your energy audit would be free. And upgrades in lighting, installing timers and motion sensing devices, more energy efficient copiers or hvac systems?all of these can translate into lower energy use and lower or more stable energy costs.

In order to participate, towns just need to pass a resolution enabling the town to submit the application and they even provide a sample resolution for an extra hand. 96 local governments have already applied for the audit program.  If your town isn’t participating, they can get the application to get the ball rolling.

The audit is separate from municipalities such as Wayne who are trying to utilize alternative energy to realize savings:

By February, solar panels will be up at two schools. A geothermal system will heat and cool the Police Department by the fall. And by the end of next year, work will be complete on a natural-gas-fired cogeneration plant that will provide power, heating and cooling to township buildings and nearby schools.

Cherry Hill has turned to conservation efforts as a way to relieve pressure on budgets:

Immediate savings have come from RecycleBank, the recycling initiative that began township-wide on July 1. The program triggered increased recycling participation and lowered landfill fees by $200,000 in the current fiscal budget, said Deborah Campbell, Cherry Hill’s chief financial officer.

The economy may cause towns to hold back on making some of these green investments in new technologies, but I don’t see much of a down side to participating if the audit because the town will be reimbursed for the majority if not all of the costs for the audit and then reap the savings of the changes made.  

Despite continued local resistance, NJ set to move forward on Windmills

Did you know that windmills are a part of the problem, not the solution?  Neither did I,  but that’s what former Mayor turned Assemblyman Scott Rumana apparently had to say:

Or think about the car-wash owner on Hamburg Pike in Wayne who was told by then-Mayor Scott Rumana a windmill there — against a backdrop of strip malls and by-the-highway retailers — might skew local aesthetics or be noisily unsafe.

Yes, you read that right boys and girls.  The problem is not the traffic, noise and energy used by the strip malls and highway retailers, it would be the noise and look of a horrible windmill.  God forbid.  I have no problem with the strip malls as this is New Jersey, but I don’t see how a windmill skews the aesthetics.   Wayne isn’t alone shunning alternative energy sources:

Take sea-swept Long Beach Township on Long Beach Island. Renewable energy stock, such as windmills, are banned there.

Think about that for a second, renewable energy stock, such as windmills are banned.  What sense does that make.  We have elected officials and candidates for office at every level of government screaming about becoming energy independent while at the same time NJ towns not only pass on the chance, but ban the possibility of making that happen.

For his part, the EnviroPolitics blog reports that Governor Corzine is set to have NJ “dip its toe” in the windmill waters:

Later this week, Governor Jon Corzine is expected to announce New Jersey’s choice to receive a $19 million grant to develop a 350 megawatt, ocean-wind pilot project. If the project demonstrates that wind energy can succeed without significant environment damage, the state likely will ramp up its demand for ocean-wind power to as much as 3,000 megawatts.

This is a big step forward, but apparently there are going to be many more hurdles along the way including local control.  Let’s hope they can be overcome so that the energy rhetoric is not stifled by outdated local regulations.

Time to move forward with energy in NJ

I feel like the current energy debate gets us no where productive slowly.  Now we’re talking about who’s fault it is that there’s no comprehensive energy policy.  The true fault probably lies with everyone involved, but rather than complaining about what hasn’t been done, maybe we should examine some of the successes that could help the NJ energy and economic situation.

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