Popular NJ solar energy rebate program: We're out of money!
New Jersey suspends popular rebate program providing money to homeowners to help offset costs of solar panel installation.
Thursday, May 13, 2010 - 22:24
HELP!: Homeowners are looking to popular government clean energy programs to help offset the high installation costs of solar panels like these. (Photo: Clownfish/Flickr)
For nearly a decade, New Jersey has been one of the most aggressive states in combating climate change. The state has had some of the most aggressive and successful state initiatives to lower emissions, "offering loans, grants and tax incentives to encourage property owners to convert to clean, renewable energy sources to reduce their electric bills and the state's reliance on fossil fuels." As of 2007, New Jersey trailed only the much larger California in the number of homes using solar technology. Solar electric installations grew by over 150 percent in New Jersey during the otherwise-forgettable 2009 year.
However, New Jersey's solar energy industry is projected to be severely hurt by 2010 budget cuts. Just last month the Clean Energy Fund "lost $158 million intended for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects." The fund is "a statewide program that offers financial incentives, funding, programs, and services for New Jersey residents, business owners, and local governments to help them save energy, money, and the environment."
One of the most successful New Jersey programs was a clean energy program providing homeowners with rebates for installing solar panels on their homes. During 2009, the biggest year for the program thus far, well over 1,000 homes were equipped with solar equipment. Unfortunately, this program has become a victim, at least temporarily, of the cuts to the Clean Energy Fund budget.
After a surge in rebate applications this month, the program has stopped accepting new requests until September (for the moment). Over 1,000 people have submitted applications for rebates so far this month, some camping out to do so, and funds have run low. The rebate system was set up in anticipation of an eventual rush of applications, with the state "dividing its rebate fund into three pools so not all funding would be gone at the start of the year." Never before was the money for one four-month cycle exhausted before the end of that cycle, until this year's first cycle. The funds for this year's first cycle were exhausted over a month early, and as a result no applications were accepted between April 2 and May 3.
"The rebates are lucrative just over $10,000 for a typical 7,500 watt system. That could cover around one-fourth of the cost of a system."
So the way I see it, there is good news and bad news here. The fact that thousands of New Jerseyans are utilizing this program and installing solar energy technology is a very good sign. The fact that the state developed such a popular program involving clean energy is also a very good sign. However, the bad news is that in a state of over 7 million people, 1,000 homes represent a very small piece of the pie. But it's a start!