SMALL SOUTH JERSEY BUSINESS BEING BLOCKED OUT OF SOLAR PROJECTS- SOUTH JERSEY AND CUMBERLAND COUNTY DESERVE BETTER : News Room : The Van Drew Team for Change : Jeff Van Drew, Bob Andrzejczak and Bruce Land
SMALL SOUTH JERSEY BUSINESS BEING BLOCKED OUT OF SOLAR PROJECTS- SOUTH JERSEY AND CUMBERLAND COUNTY DESERVE BETTER
By Jeff Van Drew, Senator, First Legislative District
Many local South Jersey residents and small to moderate businesses – at least two of which are in Cumberland County – are ready right now to move forward with the installation of solar panel and other renewable energy projects for their homes and businesses. But they can’t go ahead because of an unfair system that puts them behind very large out of state companies that want to build big solar farms – and then export the electricity they produce out of state – are pushing local residents and businesses to the back of the line for approval from the state Board of Public Utilities to connect to the electric grid.
Reserving this valuable electric grid space for big out of state solar farms to the exclusion of South Jersey is just another in a long line of examples of South Jersey residents and small businesses – including F&S Produce in Rosenhayn and JM Enterprises in Cedarville — getting the short end of the stick. The system is wrong, it needs to be changed, and I and my Assembly colleagues, Nelson Albano and Matt Milam, are working with Atlantic City Electric and the BPU to change the system to a first come, first served process.
These small businesses and residents are the victims of a regulatory process that unfairly reserves valuable electric grid space for proposed very large solar farms – that may not be able to produce electricity for up to seven years – while small businesses and residents, who are ready to do so right now, and here at home, wait in line. Atlantic City Electric and the BPU agree with Assemblymen Albano and Milam and me that this system simply makes no sense and we continue to move forward together to fix it. Included in our effort was a letter I recently wrote to Atlantic City Electric’s President, Vincent Maione, which, in addition to pointing out the inequities of the current system, noted that it is costing South Jersey, especially Cumberland County, hundreds of jobs right now, because the local solar panel projects are “shovel ready.”
Therein lies the problem we all face: As soon as these large out of state companies apply to be on the Atlantic City Electric grid – which is fast running out of room – the space is reserved for them, significantly reducing the space that can be reserved for residents and businesses like F& S Produce and JM Enterprises, who, when they apply to be on the grid, have no room due to the lack of infrastructure in South Jersey.
Just as important, the local residents and small businesses would use – right here at home — the very electricity their solar and other renewable energy projects produce, while the large out of state solar farms would produce electricity for export out South Jersey.
Atlantic City Electric and the BPU have, in my view, an obligation to take care of our own South Jersey residents and businesses first. That obligation can and should be met by putting them at the front of the line, not the end of the line, to reserve the grid space they need to get their projects up and running in the very foreseeable future, a change that would also reduce the demand on the electric company. I assure you that Assemblymen Albano and Milam and I are committed to work with Atlantic City Electric and the BPU to ensure that they “do the right thing.”
The good news is that both the BPU and Atlantic City Electric seem committed to doing just that. We’ll keep pushing.