ASSEMBLY, No. 4131

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

221st LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED APRIL 4, 2024

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman  VERLINA REYNOLDS-JACKSON

District 15 (Hunterdon and Mercer)

Assemblyman  BENJIE E. WIMBERLY

District 35 (Bergen and Passaic)

Assemblywoman  TENNILLE R. MCCOY

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

 

Co-Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman Murphy, Assemblymen Conaway, Spearman, Karabinchak, Calabrese, Assemblywoman Carter, Assemblyman Stanley, Assemblywomen Haider, Tucker and Assemblyman Venezia

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Establishes Office of Clean Energy Equity in BPU; directs establishment of certain clean energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage programs for overburdened communities; makes change to community solar program.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning clean energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage programs for overburdened communities, supplementing and amending P.L.2018, c.17, and supplementing Title 34 of the Revised Statutes and P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.).

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    (New section)  a.  There is established in the Board of Public Utilities an Office of Clean Energy Equity.  The office shall promote, guide, and oversee the equitable deployment of clean energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage programs and technologies in overburdened communities, and the equitable provision of the tangible benefits of clean energy, increased energy efficiency, and energy storage at the household and community level, including clean energy asset ownership, energy cost savings, and employment and economic opportunities, to overburdened communities.

     b.    The board shall:

     (1)   establish onsite solar or community solar programs, including, but not limited to, programs using solar facilities installed, owned, and operated by independent, non-utility providers, which benefit 250,000 low income households or 35 percent of the low income households in the State, whichever is larger, by 2030, with the goal of reducing these households’ average energy burden to below six percent of household income, as defined by the United States Department of Energy Low Income Energy Affordability Data Tool.  The board may implement the programs required pursuant to this paragraph in conjunction with existing renewable energy and energy efficiency programs or services; and

     (2)   require the establishment of a minimum of 1,600 megawatt hours of energy storage in overburdened communities, capable of delivering 400 megawatts of power, by 2030, which shall be sited in public facilities, as part of a microgrid connected to a public facility serving as a community energy resiliency hub, be directly sited in low income households, or be sited so as to otherwise increase the resiliency and reduce the energy burden of overburdened communities.  In establishing the energy storage required pursuant to this paragraph, the office shall ensure that a community energy resilience hub is powered by clean energy, is community-based and community-centric, is inclusive of community-based organizations, and prioritizes the deployment of energy services to local residents during natural disasters.

     c.     The board, in cooperation with the Office of Clean Energy Equity, shall:

     (1)   integrate workforce development training into all clean energy and energy storage programs established by the board;

     (2)   provide outreach and recruitment campaign grants to community-based organizations to increase participation by residents of overburdened communities in clean energy and energy efficiency programs by hiring residents to conduct outreach and public education in those communities;

     (3)   develop, in coordination with community-based organizations, outreach materials concerning the provisions of this act in multiple languages that are easy to deliver through multiple media;

     (4)   appoint a community liaison and establish an advisory board consisting of representatives of overburdened communities responsible for conducting an internal and external review and evaluation of all clean energy and energy storage programs available to overburdened communities and provide annual recommendations to the board on unmet needs in overburdened communities and suggestions for improvements to those programs; and

     (5)   coordinate with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development concerning the requirements of section 2 of P.L.    , c.   (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) and with the Department of Community Affairs concerning the requirements of section 3 of P.L.    , c.   (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     d.    (1) The board shall direct no less than 10 percent of the board’s annual total clean energy budget, or at least $50 million annually, whichever is greater, to the Office of Clean Energy Equity to implement the provisions of this section.  All programs, incentives, and other financing shall be appropriately structured to address the unique barriers faced by low income households and overburdened communities.  Funding directed pursuant to this subsection shall be supplemental to, and not replace, any funds allocated to energy efficiency services for low income households managed or required by the board on the effective date of P.L.    , c.   (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).  The board may allocate additional funding, staff, and resources to the Office of Clean Energy Equity as the board determines appropriate.

     Of the funds annually directed by the board to the Office of Clean Energy Equity pursuant to this paragraph, an amount not to exceed five percent may be used each year for costs associated with program administration, including costs incurred related to marketing, outreach, reporting, and evaluation activities to implement the provisions of this section.  The Office of Clean Energy Equity may contract with a third party administrator with experience deploying solar energy and energy storage in overburdened communities to implement the provisions of this section.

     (2)   The board shall consult with other State departments and agencies to identify additional sources of funding and leveraged financing that may be available to meet the requirements of P.L.    , c.   (C.      ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     (3)   No later than January 15 of each year, the board shall provide public notice on its Internet website and in the New Jersey Register of the proposed budget for the Office of Clean Energy Equity for the forthcoming fiscal year and provide an opportunity for interested stakeholders to provide oral and written comments on the proposed budget.

     e.     No later than September 1 of each year, the board shall prepare and submit to the Governor and, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), the Legislature a written report of the activities of the Office of Clean Energy Equity.  The report shall describe, at a minimum, the activities of the office during the immediately preceding fiscal year, the amounts budgeted and expended for each program activity, the amount of funding remaining unexpended at the end of the fiscal year, a summary of the collaborations with other State departments and agencies and the activities that are planned or were carried out by those entities pursuant to P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill), and a summary of the progress towards achieving the requirements of subsection b. of this section.

     f.     As used in this section:

     “Clean energy” means energy that is produced through means that does not release into the atmosphere any criteria pollutant, toxic substance, hazardous air pollutant, or other air pollutant and does not create undue environmental burden, and includes Class I renewable energy and energy saved through energy efficiency measures.

     “Community energy resiliency hub” means a community-serving facility enhanced to support residents, enhance community connectivity, and coordinate energy resource distribution and services before, during, or after a natural hazard event.

     “Community solar program” means the program established by the board pursuant to section 5 of P.L.2018, c.17 (C.48:3-87.11).

     “Energy burden” means the percentage of gross household income spent on energy costs.

     “Energy storage” means technologies used to store electricity that can provide grid and energy resilience services.

     “Limited English proficiency” means that a household does not have an adult that speaks English “very well” according to the United States Census Bureau.

     “Low income household” means a household that is at or below twice the poverty threshold as that threshold is determined annually by the United States Census Bureau.

     “Office” means the Office of Clean Energy Equity established pursuant to subsection a. of this section.

     “Overburdened community” means any census block group, as determined in accordance with the most recent United States Census, in which: (1) at least 35 percent of the households qualify as low-income households; (2) at least 40 percent of the residents identify as minority or as members of a State recognized tribal community; or (3) at least 40 percent of the households have limited English proficiency.

 

     2.  (New section) a.  (1)  The Office of Clean Energy Equity established pursuant to section 1 of P.L.    , c.    (C.          ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) shall collaborate with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, the New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation, and Technology, the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education, and any other staff or resources designated by the Board of Public Utilities, to develop program guidelines for clean energy job training and workforce development grants to be issued by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, Department of Education, and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.  The grants shall be provided to community-based, diversity-focused nonprofit organizations, community colleges, vocational-technical schools, and other qualified training partners including union apprenticeship programs that demonstrate a commitment to focused work in overburdened communities, demonstrate partnerships with employers located in close proximity to overburdened communities who will employ program participants, and will hire individuals from the communities where the work is located.  The purpose of the grants shall be to develop energy efficiency or clean energy paid workforce training programs that provide training to at least 2,500 individuals from overburdened communities by 2025.  The grant issuer shall require, as a condition of a grant award, that the programs be updated every two years to ensure that they prepare participants adequately for the current job market in the energy efficiency or clean energy industry. 

     (2)   The Department of Labor and Workforce Development shall develop, in coordination with community-based organizations, programs to provide entrepreneurial training, mentoring, apprenticeships, investment capital, loans, or other training, capacity building, technical, and financial support to residents of overburdened communities to help launch new clean energy enterprises or establish careers in the clean energy workforce.

     b.    As used in this section:

     “Clean energy” means the same as the term is defined in section 1 of P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     “Overburdened community” means the same as the term is defined in section 1 of P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

 

     3.    (New section)  a.  The Department of Community Affairs, in consultation with the Office of Clean Energy Equity established pursuant to section 1 of P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) and any other staff or resources designated by the Board of Public Utilities, shall require all new construction located in an overburdened community to be solar ready, subject to any specific exemptions that the department and the board deem reasonable and necessary and that the department adopts pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.). The department shall give preference to applications for onsite, community solar, energy storage, or other clean energy projects that are sited in overburdened communities or include minority or women-owned businesses.

     b.    The commissioner shall adopt rules and regulations, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), in order to effectuate the purposes of this section. The commissioner shall, pursuant to the “Administrative Procedure Act,” make any necessary changes to the Residential Site Improvement Standards adopted pursuant to P.L.1993, c.32 (C.40:55D-40.1 et seq.), the State Uniform Construction Code adopted pursuant to P.L.1975, c.217 (C.52:27D-119 et seq.), any building subcode, or any other existing rule and regulation to effectuate the purposes of this section.

     c.     As used in this section:

     “Clean energy” means the same as the term is defined in section 1 of P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     “Energy storage” means the same as the term is defined in section 1 of P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     “Overburdened community” means the same as the term is defined in section 1 of P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).

     “Solar panel” means an elevated panel or plate, or a canopy or array thereof, that captures and converts solar radiation to produce power, and includes flat plate, focusing solar collectors, or photovoltaic solar cells and includes the base or foundation of the panel, plate, canopy, or array.

     “Solar ready” means the incorporation of design or structural elements in a structure or building that allow for the installation of rooftop solar panels and, if the structure or building is intended to use hot water, a solar water heating system.

     “Solar water heating system” means a system which uses solar energy as the primary means of heating water.

     4.    Section 5 of P.L.2018, c.17 (C.48:3-87.11) is amended to read as follows:

     5.    a.   No later than 210 days after the date of enactment of P.L.2018, c.17 (C.48:3-87.8 et al.), the Board of Public Utilities shall adopt, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), rules and regulations establishing a "Community Solar Energy Pilot Program" to permit customers of an electric public utility to participate in a solar energy project that is remotely located from their properties but is within their electric public utility service territory to allow for a credit to the customer's utility bill equal to the electricity generated that is attributed to the customer's participation in the solar energy project.

     b.    The rules and regulations developed by the board shall establish:

     (1)   a capacity limit for individual solar energy projects to a maximum of five megawatts per project;

     (2)   an annual capacity limit for all solar energy projects under the pilot program;

     (3)   geographic limitations for solar energy projects and participating customers;

     (4)   a minimum number of participating customers for each solar energy project;

     (5)   the value of the credit on each participating customer's bill;

     (6)   standards to limit the land use impact of a solar energy project as required in subsection r. of section 38 of P.L.1999, c.23 (C.48:3-87);

     (7)   the provision of access to solar energy projects for low and moderate income customers;

     (8)   standards to ensure the ability of residential and commercial customers to participate in solar energy projects, including residential customers in multifamily housing;

     (9)   standards for connection to the distribution system of an electric public utility; and

     (10)    provisions to minimize impacts to the distribution system of an electric public utility.

     c.     The board shall make available on its Internet website information on solar energy projects whose owners are seeking participants.

     d.    The board shall establish standards and an application process for owners of solar energy projects who wish to be included in the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program.  The standards for the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program shall include, but need not be limited to, a verification process to ensure that the solar energy projects are producing an amount of energy that is greater than or equal to the amount of energy that is being credited to its participating customer's electric utility bills pursuant to subsection b. of this section, and consumer protection measures.  Projects approved by the board shall have at least two participating customers.

     The board may restrict qualified solar energy projects to those located on brownfields, landfills, areas designated in need of redevelopment, in underserved communities, or on commercial rooftops. 

     e.     Subject to review by the board, an electric public utility shall be entitled to full and timely cost recovery for all costs incurred in implementation and compliance with this section.

     f.     No later than 36 months after adoption of the rules and regulations required pursuant to subsection b. of this section, the board shall adopt rules and regulations, pursuant to the "Administrative Procedure Act," P.L.1968, c.410 (C.52:14B-1 et seq.), to convert the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program to a permanent program.  The board shall adopt rules and regulations for the permanent program that set forth standards for projects owned by electric public utilities, special purpose entities, and nonprofit entities.  The rules and regulations shall also:

     (1)   limit the capacity of each solar energy project to a maximum of five megawatts;

     (2)   establish a goal for the development of at least 50 megawatts of solar energy projects per year, taking into account any changes to the SREC program;

     (3)   set geographic limitations for solar energy projects and participating customers;

     (4)   provide for a minimum number of participating customers for each solar energy project;

     (5)   require the provision of access to solar energy projects for low and moderate income customers in accordance with the requirements of section 1 of P.L.    , c.   (C.       ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill);

     (6)   establish standards to ensure the ability of residential and commercial customers to participate in solar energy projects, including residential customers in multifamily housing;

     (7)   establish a method for determining the value of the credit on each participating customer's bill;

     (8)   establish timeframes for the credit available to the customer;

     (9)   establish standards and methods to verify solar electric energy generation on a monthly basis for a solar energy project;

     (10)  establish standards consistent with the land use provisions for solar energy projects as provided in subsections r., s., and t. of section 38 of P.L.1999, c.23 (C.48:3-87) and any land use provisions of the permanent successor to the SREC program established by the board pursuant to P.L.2021, c.169 (C.48:3-114 et al.);

     (11)  establish standards, fees, and uniform procedures for solar energy projects to be connected to the distribution system of an electric public utility;

     (12)  minimize impacts to the distribution system of an electric public utility;

     (13)  require monthly reporting requirements for the operators of solar energy projects to the electric public utility, project customers, and the board;

     (14)  require reporting by the electric public utility to the operator of a solar energy project on the value of credits to the participating customer's bills; and

     (15)  require transferability, portability, and buy-out provisions for customers who participate in community solar energy projects.

     g.    As used in this section:

     "Solar energy project" means a system containing one or more solar panels and associated equipment.

     "Solar panel" means an elevated panel or plate, or a canopy or array thereof, that captures and converts solar radiation to produce electric power, and is approved by the board to be included in the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program.

     "Solar power" includes flat plate, focusing solar collectors, or photovoltaic solar cells and excludes the base or foundation of the panel, plate, canopy, or array.

(cf: P.L.2018, c.17, s.5)

 

     5.    (New section)  The board shall conduct a study to examine utility rate schedules applied to customers living in multi-family housing served by a single meter, and the community solar bill credits and effective savings available to those customers.  The study shall assess whether customers living in multi-family housing are eligible to receive similar financial benefits from community solar participation as those customers residing in single-family residences, and make suggestions for legislative or regulatory action to ensure the equitable distribution of the benefits and cost-savings of community solar.  In conducting the study, the board shall solicit comments from utilities, public interest groups, and other interested parties.  The board shall report its findings to the Governor and, pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991,
c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), the Legislature no later than 270 days after the effective date of P.L.    , c.   (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill). 

 

     6.    This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

      This bill would establish the Office of Clean Energy Equity (“office”) in the Board of Public Utilities (BPU).  The office would be charged with promoting, guiding, and overseeing the equitable deployment of clean energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage programs and technologies in overburdened communities, and the equitable provision of the tangible benefits of clean energy, increased energy efficiency, and energy storage at the household and community level, including clean energy asset ownership, energy cost savings, and employment and economic opportunities, to overburdened communities.  The bill would require the BPU to:  (1) establish onsite solar or community solar programs, which benefit 250,000 low income households or 35 percent of the low income households in the State, whichever is larger, by 2030, with the goal of reducing these households’ average energy burden to below six percent of household income; and (2) require the establishment of a minimum of 1,600 megawatt hours of energy storage to benefit overburdened communities by 2030.

      In addition, the BPU, in cooperation with the office, would be required to:  integrate workforce development training into all clean energy and energy storage programs established by the BPU; provide outreach and recruitment campaign grants to community-based organizations to increase participation in clean energy and energy efficiency programs; develop, in coordination with community-based organizations, outreach materials in multiple languages; appoint a community liaison and establish an advisory board consisting of representatives of overburdened communities to review and evaluate the clean energy and energy storage programs available to overburdened communities; and coordinate with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DLWD) and the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) concerning their responsibilities pursuant to sections 2 and 3 of the bill.

      The bill would require the BPU to direct no less than 10 percent of the BPU’s annual total clean energy budget, or at least $50 million annually, whichever is greater, to the office for the purposes of the bill.  The BPU would be authorized to allocate additional funding, staff, and resources to the office as it determines appropriate. 

      In addition, the bill would require the office, in collaboration with the DLWD, New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA), New Jersey Commission on Science, Innovation, and Technology (CSIT), and the Office of the Secretary of Higher Education (OSHE) to establish program guidelines for clean energy job training and workforce development grants to be issued by the EDA, Department of Education (DOE), and the DLWD.  The grants would be issued to community-based, diversity-focused nonprofit organizations, community colleges, vocational-technical schools, and other organizations to develop energy efficiency or clean energy paid workforce training programs that provide training to at least 2,500 individuals from overburdened communities by 2025.  Under the bill, it would be a condition of a grant award that the programs be updated every two years to ensure that they prepare participants adequately for the current job market in the solar energy or clean energy industry. The bill would also direct the DLWD, in coordination with community-based organizations, to develop programs to provide entrepreneurial training, mentoring, apprenticeships, investment capital, loans, or other training, capacity building, technical, and financial support to residents of overburdened communities to help launch new clean energy enterprises or establish careers in the clean energy workforce.

      The bill would also direct the DCA, in consultation with the office, to require the all new construction located in an overburdened community be solar ready, subject to any specific exemptions that the DCA and the BPU deem reasonable and necessary and that the DCA adopts as rules and regulations.  The bill would also require the DCA to give preference to applications for onsite, community solar, energy storage, or other clean energy projects that are sited in overburdened communities or include minority or women-owned businesses.

      Lastly, the bill would amend the law establishing the Community Solar Energy Pilot Program to require that the eventual permanent community solar program provide for access to solar energy projects for low and moderate income customers, in accordance with the requirements of the bill.  In addition, the bill would require that the permanent community solar program be consistent with any land use provisions of the permanent successor to the SREC program.