Late last year the State finalized its Energy Master Plan. That plan was several years in the making and was over a decade overdue. The EMP called for increasing NJ’s energy efficiency and the generation of electricity from renewable energy. The State also tied its Global Warming Response plan very tightly with the Energy Master Plan. The sooner NJ puts in place the policies necessary to achieve the twin goals of reducing our generation of energy from dirty power and reducing our global greenhouse gas emissions the better of we will be economically and environmentally. In baby steps towards these goals, the Governor recently signed into three law three bills that will reduce our use of fossil fuels and encourage the development of electricity form renewable energy.
P.L. 2009 c. 33 (A1558/S2265) will help encourage solar energy by making solar photovoltaic panels an option you can choose as when you buy new construction. This new laws requires developer of 25 homes or more to explain to new home buyers the benefits of solar energy, the financial incentives available and to install the panels on the new home if chosen by the buyer. By making solar energy systems just another option a home buyer can choose from as their new home is built, hopefully we will continue to grow NJ’s place as a leader in renewable energy.
P.L. 2009 c. 35 (A2550/S1299) defines solar and wind facilities as a permitted use in industrial zones with 20 or more acres. This bill would help prevent municipalities from excluding solar and wind facilities from industrial zones. In essence towns cannot prohibit renewable energy in these zones by defining them as not a permitted use. They will still be able to discourage these systems by setting up prohibitive setback requirements or height limitations.
P.L. 2009 c. 34 (A2507/S1932) gives BPU the authority/requirement to grant money to companies that was to install cogen facilities. Cogen facilities are systems that use oil/gas/etc. to generate not only electricity but heat as well. Normally, fossil fuels are used to generate heat for a building or electricity but not both. By encouraging the use of cogen the overall use of fossil fuels will decrease.
There is one bill that was considered by both houses of the legislature on March 16th – A3062/S1303. These bills would define wind and solar systems as inherently beneficial. This definition is necessary because many towns require a person who wishes to install a renewable energy system (in particular wind) to apply for a variance. With certain variance applications a person will have to prove that the renewable energy system is “inherently beneficial.” This term has never been defined by the legislature up to now, but we have had to rely on each individual town and the courts to provide the definition on a case by case basis. While this bill is not best solution it is a step in the right direction.
The run of the mill variance application is time consuming, money consuming process without any guarantee that the end result will be favorable. When the variance application is for renewable energy the process because more expensive and more time consuming. Also, it will drive everybody who opposes change to the hearings. These “nimby” people will spout “facts” to oppose the project which have very little relationship to reality. Declaring renewable energy as inherently beneficial, one hurdle is removed from the process.
All of these bills are good first steps to reaching the goals of the energy master plan and the global warming response act. There are several other bills, that will further these goals even more, that have been introduced and are awaiting consideration. I will discuss these bills in a future post.