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Eustace Introduces Legislation to Advance Energy Efficiency, Environmental Sustainability in N.J.

Measures Chart Path for Microgrids, Smart Growth, Solar Panel Installation & Updated Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards

Assemblyman Tim Eustace has introduced four bills to promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability throughout New Jersey.

“Every day, people statewide depend on having safe, reliable energy for everything from lighting rooms to engaging in personal and professional communication to heating and cooling their homes,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “By facilitating the efficient delivery of power to New Jersey residents, these bills will help advance our energy policy and keep the state running smoothly.”

The first bill (A-4180) would direct the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to establish a microgrid pilot program. The program would ensure that critical public and private facilities have the means to continue operating during a federally-declared disaster or state of emergency.

Because microgrids, small-scale electric grids connected to central power sources, can operate independent of the main grid by utilizing on-site power generation, they can be critical during storms or other emergencies, Eustace said.

“The decentralization of electric power proved itself to be an effective strategy during Hurricane Sandy, when on-site systems kept a select group of communities up and running,” said Eustace. “This legislation would allow New Jersey to use this technology to prepare for the next disaster.”

Under the bill, the BPU may approve a maximum of three microgrid pilot program applications. The board would determine rates and would use established sources of funding, including unused funds from the societal benefits charge, to create a grant program to fund the program.

The legislation would require the BPU to provide the governor and the legislature with an evaluation of the pilot program within two years of the bill’s effective date.

The measure was referred to the Assembly Telecommunication and Utilities Committee.

The second bill (A-4185) would require the land use plan element of all municipal master plans to include a strategy for smart growth, storm resiliency and environmental sustainability.

“As one of the most densely populated and ecologically diverse states in the country, it’s appropriate for New Jersey to develop ways to advance the wellness of people and the environment,” said Eustace. “Local boards familiar with local land use issues are uniquely situated to consider and adopt strategies that will benefit their communities. This legislation will encourage them to keep the environment in mind as they work to achieve that end.”

The measure was referred to the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee.

The third bill (A-4186) would establish a “Solar Roof Installation Warranty Program” within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). The program would provide a source of indemnification to commercial, industrial and institutional building owners who wish to install solar panel systems on their building roofs but cannot obtain sufficient warranty coverage against any resulting roof damage.

“Solar energy is an abundant, environmentally-friendly way to meet the demand for power in New Jersey, and our state has been a proud leader on that front,” said Eustace. “By alleviating some of the concerns building owners may have about the liabilities associated with solar panels, this bill will encourage more entities to take advantage of this clean energy source.”

Under the bill, societal benefits charge funds would provide an initial $2 million for the “Solar Roof Installation Warranty Fund”. The bill directs the BPU to make additional deposits of $500,000 per fiscal year thereafter until deposits to the fund reach a cumulative total of $5 million.

The fund, to be maintained in a trust account separate and apart from other funds, would provide sufficient money to pay claims by participating commercial, industrial and institutional building owners for damages to a roof due to solar panels that a warranty or insurance policy does not cover and pay the overall costs of administering the program. The maximum amount to be paid from the fund for a loss to a participant for a single building would be $50,000.

The bill requires the NJEDA to investigate and determine the validity of each claim.

The measure was referred to the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.

The fourth bill (A-4224) would amend current law to establish new renewable energy portfolio standards in New Jersey, increasing the share of electric power that must come from certain clean energy sources.

“Building a strong, sustainable energy future in New Jersey will require us to promote the development of renewable energy resources,” said Eustace. “By strengthening New Jersey’s renewable energy portfolio standards steadily over the next few decades, this legislation will help deter climate change and draw in renewable energy companies eager to create green jobs.”

Under the bill, the percentage of electricity from Class I renewable energy, such as solar energy, wind energy or geothermal energy, would increase once every five years between 2015 and 2050. Beginning with energy year 2015, 11 percent of the kilowatt-hours sold in the state would have to be from Class I renewable energy, increasing until 2050, when 80 percent of the electric power sold in New Jersey would have to come from Class I renewable energy.

Further, the bill would require 14 percent of the electricity sold in New Jersey to be from solar energy by energy year 2030.

The measure was referred to the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee.