Tag Archive: Solar

#Science Policy Friday: Small Step for Solar Paves Way for Greener Grid

Promoted by Bill Orr

SciPoliFri_Box.gifThis week’s column is on an important piece of legislation that will ensure that residential and small-business solar continues to grow with the full support of state policy.  As always, thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article. Thank you to NJ Spotlight and NJ.com for their continued coverage of these important issues to the state of New Jersey. Cross-posted at DanBenson.com

You or maybe a neighbor in town has installed solar, and you’ve seen or heard about how the power company’s meter “runs backward” when the solar panels are powering the home.  That means that the homeowner is receiving a retail rate for the power they are generating, making the payback for solar much quicker for the homeowner.  The technical term for this is “Net Metering.”

Net metering is the system that allows people who generate their own electricity using solar panels to feed excess energy back into the grid, sometimes referred to as “nega-watt” energy.  Net metering encourages residential and commercial solar growth and may allow a utility company to avoid costly investments in new transmission and distribution of grid electricity.

Under the current New Jersey law, utilities do not have to offer net metering when generating capacity by net-metered customers equals 2.5% of the state’s peak demand for electricity, and as NJ Spotlight reports, a threshold we are already above. But on August 10th, the governor signed legislation (A-3838/S-2420) sponsored by Assemblymen John F. McKeon, Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and myself.  The new law expands the state’s net-metering capacity threshold to 2.9% of total annual kilowatt-hours sold in state. More importantly, this means that the crucial pro-consumer pro-environment and pro-renewable energy job policy of net metering will continue unabated as solar continues its growth in the Garden State.

Planning New Jersey’s Energy Future

This is the third in a series of articles or news gathering of science and technology policy issues facing New Jersey or the nation. Thanks to my science and environment intern Arcadia Lee for research and drafting this article.  Cross-posted at DanBenson.com

Energy touches the lives of every New Jersey resident – every day. Our quality of life, our security, our prosperity, the land and water around us, and how we work and play all depend on energy. Energy master planning is an important aspect of proactive facilities management, providing an expertly defined and practical road-map to a sustainable future environment.

New Jersey’s Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy will be holding hearings this month to update the state’s Energy Master Plan.  

Adding to the Energy Master Plan’s importance is its relationship to the federal Clean Power Plan announced this week by President Obama.  The EPA is giving each state an individual goal for cutting power plant emissions. States can then decide for themselves how to get there.

Anatomy of Christie-Era Unemployment: Clean Energy

Yesterday, we had the first installment of “Anatomy of Christie-Era Unemployment” in response to the Star Ledger Editorial saying not to blame Christie.

Following yesterday’s focus on the jobs that the Star Ledger themselves say would have been created from the ARC tunnel project Christie canceled, today we move onto clean energy.  Flashback to this editorial from the Star Ledger on Feb 26, 2012: (Emphasis Mine)

He has proposed grabbing $210 million from the state’s Clean Energy Fund, strangling a program that is devoted mostly to conservation efforts.

This money comes from electricity consumers who pay a surcharge on their bills each month. It pays for green workers to install insulation at hospitals and town halls across the state. It helps subsidize retrofits to homes. Some of it helps subsidize green-energy projects.

Cutting money for workers to actually have a job and additional money for projects that would put people to work. That sounds like Christie had a pretty direct impact on unemployment. The editorial continued: (Emphasis mine)

So let’s summarize: Christie’s money grab would increase energy costs, kill green jobs and lead to more air pollution.

And then Deciminyan noted in a previous diary that Christie’s Inaction has cost thousands jobs in South Jersey:

Governor Christie’s refusal to move forward the process for wind energy has cost several thousand jobs in South Jersey while maintaining further dependence on dirty energy. So those 2,000 people can blame the governor.

Just more examples of Christie era unemployment, but again how is he not to blame for unemployment?

Senate Democratic Leadership

I’m re-posting this from Monday. That morning,  one of the busiest days in the Senate, the Democratic leadership granted Blue Jersey a significant amount of time for this interview. It was overshadowed by the tragic events that evening, but the remarks by Senators Sweeney and Weinberg set the stage for the new session, ahead.

This morning, Senate President Stephen Sweeney and incoming Majority Leader Senator Loretta Weinberg took time out of their busy day to give Blue Jersey readers an exclusive interview. They talked about the accomplishments of the last session, goals for the new session (which starts tomorrow), the new initiative for marriage equality, jobs, energy, and the recent controversies about residency requirements in the last legislative election.

The Fork in the (Solar) Road

“When you come to a fork in the road….Take it.”

– Montclair NJ native Yogi Berra

“We are the victim of our own success.”

– New Jersey Senator Bob Smith (D-Piscataway) testifying today before the Assembly Telecom & Utilities Committee supporting legislation on solar power

“[Today’s proposed legislation] would have a devastating impact on the economy of the state.”

– Stephanie Brand – Director of the NJ Division of Rate Counsel

We have come to a fork in the road with regard to the deployment of solar energy in New Jersey. Today, Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-Somerset) and his Telecom & Utilities Committee took a big step in deciding which path to take.

More, including an interview with Assemblyman Chivukula, after the fold…

Chutzpah Quote of the Day

As reported by Tom Johnson of NJ Spotlight, Hal Bozarth, executive director of the Chemical Council of New Jersey and an opponent of offshore wind development recently said,

“Without big federal subsidies, you cannot make wind power affordable.”

That’s a lot of chutzpah from someone whose industry receives big federal subsidies.

His statement was in response to NRG Energy’s withdrawal from the offshore wind business in New Jersey. NRG’s rationale was the uncertain regulatory climate and the lack of subsidies for offshore wind developers.

How hypocritical that Bozarth is opposed to subsidies for this clean technology. After all, the oil and gas industries, on which Bozarth’s members depend, have received government subsidies for decades. And the taxpayer has been repeatedly called upon to spend billions to clean up oil, gas, and chemical spills and to pay for health care due to chemical pollution of the atmosphere.

Blue Jersey Focus – Jeff Tittel – Part 1

When the history books (or e-books) are written about the twentieth century, one of its legacies will be the impact that we inflicted on the air, water, and forests around the world. And when the history of the first decades of the twenty-first century is documented, it will either describe mankind’s universal effort to stem the damage, or the irreversible downward slope that we embarked on that will fundamentally change life as we know it.

Protection of the environment has always been challenged – by “progress”, by perceived job creation, and by luddites who refuse to believe established scientific facts.

New Jersey has within it a microcosm of these debates. Businesses that have investments in dirty technology downplay the environmental effects to maximize short term profits. Politicians who benefit from the contributions of these businesses contend that any regulation automatically means loss of jobs.

The New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club has been a voice in Trenton for protection of the environment. I spoke with their Director, Jeff Tittel, earlier today.

In the first part of the interview (below the fold), Tittel talks about some of the issues and challenges being debated in Trenton, including hydraulic fracturing, the Governor’s abandonment of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, renewable energy such as solar and wind, and the impact of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant and other factors in the Barnegat Bay.

The Paradigms – They are a-Shiftin’

When we flip on a light switch in our homes, few of us think about the ramifications. Electricity is relatively cheap, so we don’t think of the cost. Most of the time it’s available on demand, so we don’t think about reliability or distribution, and since we don’t see the pollution that resulted from its production, we don’t usually think about the environment. We just flip on the switch, and there’s light.

But at times, we’re all aware of some of the problems and pitfalls in lighting and heating our homes. We experience power outages, usually attributable to extreme weather. We gripe about our electricity bills, especially during the summer months when our air conditioners run non-stop. We see the environmental cost with dirty air from coal-burning plants and the ever-present threat of a Three Mile Island or Fukushima Daiiachi disaster in our back yard.

The paradigms about the generation and distribution of electrical power in New Jersey are shifting. It’s not just the move from reliance on dirty fossil fuels to clean energy sources. We also must take into account the need for energy storage to account for the time difference between when renewable energy is available (like solar during daylight hours) and when it is consumed (for example, at night or during overcast days.) We need to recognize that the generation of renewable energy is not done at a few large capital-intensive power plants, but is more of a geographically distributed entity, one which our transmission systems and regulations may not be optimized for. And we need to look into the future where electric vehicles will become more prevalent, resulting in more consumer demand for power in the home, and access to power-hungry recharging stations along the state’s thoroughfares.  The cost of solar power is becoming lower than that of nuclear, and with the closing of the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in 2019, a large chunk of the state’s indigenous generation capacity will need to be replaced. And a new player, geothermal energy, is becoming a viable way to heat and cool our homes (for more on geothermal, go to the 4:00 mark in the Chivukula video, below.)

Economy, Environment

Taxes and Government Spending.

Tax the wealthy. For one thing, they have money. They are the only people with money. And for another, it’s not as if they don’t reap any benefits from living in society. Wealthy people get sick – and can afford health care.

During the Depression, Roosevelt and Keynes saw that while business owners could hire people they wouldn’t risk capital making widgets they were not optimistic that people would buy. In economic times such as these it is only the government that is both able and also willing to hire. That’s why the austerity programs in Europe are backfiring. We need government programs.

But they must make sense.