Home > Uncategorized > The Murphy Administration’s “Community Solar” Program Is A Cruel Hoax

The Murphy Administration’s “Community Solar” Program Is A Cruel Hoax

Program Is Capped At Just 75 MW/Year, Compared to 650 MW Proposed To BPU

Less Than 30 MW Is Allocated To Low & Moderate Income Homes

“Activists” “Demand” 400 MW, Which Is LESS THAN The Private Sector Proposed

Community solar facility” refers to the physical equipment, including, but not limited to, panels, inverters, racking, and balance of systems, which constitutes a solar facility used for community solar, with a nameplate capacity in DC rating not to exceed five MW. ~~~ NJ BPU regulations, NJAC 14:8-9.2

[Update below]

NJ Spotlight ran another misleading story today on the Murphy Administration’s “Community Solar” program, with a sham headline, no less, see:

“Power to the people”? Are you kidding me?

There are no requirements that the “community” solar system be publicly owned and subject to “community” standards and democratic controls.

The story repeats the false narrative about the so called high costs and subsidies to renewable energy, while completely ignoring the context in which to evaluate those alleged costs, including:

  • the human & economic costs of climate catastrophe, which include collapse of civilization
  • the metric of traditional mainstream economics, known as the Social Costs of Carbon
  • billions of dollars of subsidies to the fossil industry
  • corporate profits

How can it be that NOT ONE of these major points – all of which are robustly documented in the literature, as a simple Google search reveals – is part of the media coverage and policy debate?

This is totally irresponsible journalism.

So  called “Ratepayer Advocate” Brandt is professionally negligent in her one dimensional analysis and repeated criticism of so called “renewable subsidies”.

The climate and renewable energy activists are incompetent in failing to make the case and challenge the media narrative and the technical methodologies upon which this false narrative is based.

I hardly know where to begin in correcting the omissions and misinformation in that story and the lame efforts of the so called “activists”.

First, let’s present key facts about the community program, which were not included in the NJ Spotlight story, based on Murphy BPU’s own press release::

1. The community solar pilot program is legally capped at just 75 MW/year.

2. BPU estimates that over 3 years of 75 MW/year, could provide the power consumption equivalent of  (not actual service to) 45,000 homes.

3. Private sector solar developers submitted proposals to BPU for 650 MW of capacity.

In comparison, the so called “activists” “roadmap” in NJ Spotlight story are demanding a program of just 400 MW by 2030, which is far LESS than proposed by the private sector in year 2019!!!. How is that “roadmap” ambitious? It too is a joke.

4. BPU claims that 40% of the 75 MW capacity – just 30 MW – is “earmarked” for low and modest income homes (note that the “earmark” is not a legal “dedication” or guarantee).

But, upon close examination of the BPU program priority criteria – in light of almost 10 times more capacity proposed than the 75 MW cap – that 40% “earmark” is not even close to what capacity is actually likely to be allocated to low and moderate homes. Follow me.

Specifically, the BPU received 252 applications for 650 MW of power,  almost 10 TIMES the 75 MW cap.

So, the actual allocation of the 75 MW will be based on how projects earn “points” and are ranked based on the BPU priority criteria. The 75 MW capped capacity will be consumed by a very short list of the total projects, compared to those that applied to BPU.

According to BPU, 232 of the 252 applications “are for projects where at least 51 percent of capacity would benefit low- and moderate-income (LMI) residents.”

Did you get that? Just 51% of capacity to LMI qualifies the project. That means 49% of a so called LMI project power can go elsewhere, like a corporate office park or shopping center. Technically, that 51% minimum could cut the 30 MW “earmark” to just a little over 15 MW.

Technically, assuming that a typical community solar project provides just 51% to LMI, the 75MW capped capacity means that far less than 30 MW is actually guaranteed to LMI. It could be as little as just 15 MW.

But, it gets worse.

Next, we must consider how the BPU priority point system will operate and impact the allocation to LMI.

First, let me present how BPU  describes it and then I will interpret how this will allocate funding to LMI:

BPU will “score the applications based on evaluation criteria which include:”

  • Low- and moderate-income and environmental justice inclusion (30 points max.);

  • Siting – with priority given to landfills, brownfields, areas of historic fill, rooftops, parking lots, and parking decks (20 points max., with a potential five-point bonus for landscaping, land enhancement, pollination support, storm water management, soil conservation, and/or decommissioning plans);

  • Product offering (15 points max., with priority given to those that guarantee savings of greater than 10 percent);

  • Community and environmental justice engagement (10 points max.);

  • Subscribers (10 points max., with priority given to projects with a majority of residential subscribers);

  • Other benefits (10 points max., with priority given to projects providing local jobs, job training or demonstration of co-benefits such as paired with storage or a microgrid project); and

  • Geographic limit within EDC service territory (5 points max., with priority given to projects with subscribers in the same municipality or an adjacent municipality to the project’s location).

    Projects must receive at least 30 points to be considered for participation in the Pilot Program. Projects that receive more than 30 points will be awarded capacity in the Pilot Program in order, starting with the highest-scoring project and proceeding to the lowest-scoring project.

Note that, based on the priority criteria, technically, zero capacity is actually guaranteed to LMI.

It is easy to imagine ways to game the point system. A project that gets at least 31 points that has no LMI (e.g. a landfill site, with stormwater controls and greater than 10% savings – with no LMI or EJ components).

LMI gets just 30 points of 90 total points – but note that a project could get more than 30 points based on earning some of the 60 points of other criteria.

Note also that environmental justice – and alleged priority of Governor Murphy – gets just 10 points, of 90 total.

Ironically, the actual “guarantee” to LMI is the result, not of the BPU priority point system, but of the fact that large majority of the applications allocate at least 51% to LMI.

There is no guarantee whatsoever for environmental justice considerations.

The so called activists need to understand facts and make more effective arguments.

And the media needs to stop the false narrative and report the facts.

[Update: For content, compare Gov. Murphy’s paltry program to Bernie Sanders‘ Green New Deal for Public Housing, which, among other things seeks to:

[(1) – (4)]

(5) to transition the entire public housing stock  of the United States, as swiftly and seamlessly as possible, into highly energy-efficient homes that produce on-site, or procure, enough carbon-free re-newable energy to meet total energy consumption annually.

Obviously, this retrofit policy and all the provisions of the Sanders’ bill could be applied to existing privately owned housing.

I post this as a benchmark for the exaggerated low and moderate income, social justice, renewable energy, and climate claims of Gov. Murphy. ~~~ end update]

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