While the New Jersey Governor has recently raised some uncertainty over the state’s commitment to solar energy in the Energy Master Plan, there certainly is no doubt where the state Senate stands on the subject. Last week the Senate voted 30-7 to pass S2371 to accelerate the solar renewable portfolio standard. This Bill was originally intended to create a requirement for long-term SREC contracts in the New Jersey market, but that measure was shot down fairly quickly given the strong opposition from the deregulated energy industry in New Jersey. A later version of the Bill included a mechanism for a floor price, similar to the one introduced in Massachusetts in 2010. The version of the Bill that was passed only increases the SREC requirement in 2013, moving forward all the SREC requirements by one year in each year after 2012.
Though the initial intent of this Bill was to provide stability and lower long-term SREC prices to a fluctuating SREC market, the revised Bill will essentially double the additional capacity required in 2013. With a pending oversupply in New Jersey (the state installed 145 MW last year and needs only 115 MW before it hits an oversupply), the increase in 2013 will help support the current rate of solar adoption. The change will allow for 275 MW of additional capacity in 2013, allowing the state to maintain its current build rate. That said, it is only a temporary fix to what will continue to be a problem past 2013 as the requirements in 2014-2016 only allow for approximately 150 – 175 MW of solar per year. The bottom line is that the rate of solar development in New Jersey needs to slow down. Whether this bill passes or not only effects how fast the industry must apply those brakes.
If development doesn’t slow down, SREC prices will not only fall, but many sellers will not be able to find buyers in an oversupplied market. Hopefully the current drop in SREC prices are providing the intended signal to would-be solar projects that the market can’t handle continued development. This past month, an additional 23 MW became active in the NJ SREC market. Moving forward, the market cannot handle any more than 10-12 MW per month for the next 5 years if it is to reach an equilibrium.