If solar, as expected, is a key component to New Jersey's push toward 100 percent renewable energy in the decades ahead, environmentalists say it's best for the state to expand a system now that incentivizes homeowners and businesses to install solar panels, and eventually helps all residents.

Known as net metering, solar customers get credited for the electricity that's produced by their solar arrays but goes unused and is sent back to the power grid.

Under current law, utilities are allowed to cut off net metering when generating capacity of solar systems is equal to 2.9 percent of the state's peak demand for electricity.

Under legislation advanced in February by a state Senate panel, the cap would double to 5.8 percent.

According to Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, solar customers in the state have not yet run into a situation where the cap was met. But, he said, we don't ever want to get to that point.

"We're looking at a world where we want to expand clean energy like solar, and expanding net metering is a critical part of expanding clean renewable solar power in the state," O'Malley said.

Gov. Phil Murphy's administration has set a goal for 100 percent clean energy by 2050. O'Malley said the state currently has more than 86,000 solar installations between homeowners and businesses.

"Net metering is a way to allow solar customers to sell their excess clean energy back into the electric grid, and that means all of us can use it," O'Malley added. "It means more clean energy on the grid and that ultimately means lower prices, especially on those hot summer days."

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, some utilities see net metering policies as a hit to to their bottom line. As of July 2017, New Jersey was one of 38 states with mandatory rules on net metering, the association says.


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