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New Jersey bill would raise net metering capacity to 7.5% of peak power demand


The chairman of the New Jersey Senate Environment Committee has introduced a bipartisan bill that would raise the state's net metering capacity limit to 7.5% of peak demand, which would make it one of the highest limits in the country.

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Utilities and power suppliers can currently stop offering net metering when the total generation capacity owned and operated by net metering customer generators reaches 2.5% of the New Jersey's peak electricity demand.

Vermont, by contrast, raised its net metering capacity in April to 15% of the state's peak demand. California is considered to have a high limit at 5%. New York, Massachusetts, West Virginia and Nevada have a 3% capacity limit. The highest limit is in Utah, where Rocky Mountain Power has a 20% limit, according to the US Department of Energy.

"Net metering allows electricity customers who generate their own electricity using solar, wind, biopower and other forms of renewable energy to bank excess electricity on the grid in the form of kilowatt-hour credits. These credits can be used by customers as needed," a statement accompanying the New Jersey bill said.

State Senator Bob Smith, a Democrat and chairman of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, and Christopher Bateman, a Republican and also a member of the committee, are the primary sponsors of the bill. Linda Greenstein, a Republican and vice chair of the committee, co-sponsored the bill, A-2420.

The bill could increase solar installations above the amount needed to meet the renewable energy portfolio standard without reducing the value of renewable energy credits, Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, said Tuesday.

Tittel expects to see more solar installations by customers who are more interested in backup power than selling renewable energy credits.

"People are concerned about reliability. In New Jersey there have been three big power outages in the last three years and a lot of people are frustrated," he said.

There is little doubt that the bill will pass the legislature, Tittel said.

"And the governor might sign it," he said, referring to Republican Governor Chris Christie.

Christie appointed state Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula, a strong advocate for renewable energy and New Jersey's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to the Board of Public Utilities in mid-September.

Chivukula, a Democrat and chairman of the General Assembly's Telecommunications and Utilities Committee and deputy speaker, resigned his post Monday to take his position as BPU commissioner.

--Mary Powers,
--Edited by Jason Lindquist,