Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. My name is Raymond Cantor and I am Vice President of Government Affairs with the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. NJBIA is the nation’s largest statewide business association whose members employ one million workers in New Jersey.
NJBIA supports this legislation, but seeks amendments that will improve this bill.
While the boom in clean energy has been underway for a number of years, lower income communities have been largely left out of the benefits that come from solar, storage, and energy efficiency. The lack of economic resources in the community is the primary reason for this inequity. That is changing now with the advent of community solar and an emphasis on energy efficiency. However, more lowerincome people and their communities should have the opportunity to avail themselves of new, clean-energy technologies and the jobs they help create.
Lower income communities are especially vulnerable to energy supply disruptions. While many state residents in wealthier communities have auxiliary energy supply sources, or have the financial ability to leave impacted areas until power is restored, those with less resources are not so advantaged and suffer the consequences of disruptions. That is why targeting battery storage in lower income areas is so
important. Not only does storage help promote clean energy production and reduce carbon emissions, it also directly benefits communities in most need.
NJBIA is normally opposed to any diversion of Clean Energy Fund monies. However, in this case we support using the Clean Energy Fund monies, at the levels provided in the bill, because this use is consistent with the intent of the fund and should not impact the fund’s ability to support existing programs, including those promoting business energy efficiencies. We encourage you to protect the Clean Energy Fund from being used for other inappropriate purposes during the budget
While NJBIA does support this bill, we want to offer a few amendments that we think would make it better.
- We recognize that it was a lack of economic resources that prevented many of our residents from taking advantage of the SREC program to install solar equipment. In order to best reverse the inequality of this previous program, the bill should target all lower income people, not just minority groups or those with limited proficiency in English. All lower income people should have the benefits of clean energy equity. For that reason, we suggest that the definition of overburdened community be changed to “equity communities” and that it be defined solely based on economic criteria.
- We question the need to allocate 10% of the monies dedicated under this bill for administrative expenses. The standard for administrative expenses in other legislation, including programs set up in the Department of Environmental Protection, is 5%. There is no need to give the BPU more than this, especially if we want to maximize the benefits of this program. The amount dedicated for administrative expenses should be capped at 5%.
- We do have concerns about the mandate requiring all new development in designated areas to be built “solar ready.” While well intentioned, it is already very expensive to build in New Jersey and this will just be another cost that either drives up the cost of development or makes redevelopment projects in our urban areas less likely. It is also a broad mandate in that it applies to “all” development, which will certainly involve costs that exceed benefits. Rather than impose another construction mandate, we would ask you to consider a tax credit or other incentive to encourage developers to make their buildings solar ready.
- Finally, NJBIA is a firm supporter of workforce development efforts. However, we would ask that in this legislation, you to build upon existing programs, including the work of our community colleges, to train a clean energy workforce. We recommend that county colleges and vo-tech public high schools, which are now actively involved in workforce development, be made eligible for these grants. Giving grants to local nonprofits may prove to be a less effective way to achieve the bill’s goals.
Thank you again for your time today and we look forward to continuing to work with the sponsor.