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January 16, 2012

Solar industry loses fight for N.J. bill

(UPI) -- A proposed New Jersey law to compel utilities to more than double their solar production in 2013 has failed as critics slammed it as a solar industry "bailout."

A lame-duck session of the Legislature refused to consider the bill on its final day in session as factions in the solar sector were unable to agree on a compromise version, reported Tuesday.

Critics say the proposed bill, pushed by solar industry lobbyists, would have given the alternative energy industry a lift, but at the expense of taxpayers and utilities.

"What the solar developers are asking for is a bailout," Stefanie Brand, the state's public advocate for utility customers, told The Record of Woodland Park, N.J.

"They want to get the benefit of the system. And they need more money than the market will give them."

Under the bill, which will likely resurface in some form in the next session, utilities would either have to increase their production of solar power or buy credits from solar-power producers to make up for any shortfall.

State Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, chairman of the Telecommunications and Utilities Committee, agreed the fledgling solar industry requires assistance.

But, he said, "this acceleration [of solar requirements] is out of control. It's going to put tremendous burden on the ratepayers."

Brand agreed.

Public assistance for the industry has "morphed from helping jump-start the industry to supporting the industry for the next 20 years," she said.

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