Economics Trump Environment in New Jersey

New Jersey has been a leader in solar, but because of tough economic times, the Governor has thrown solar under the bus. The New Jersey governor has diverted some $400 million in clean energy programs to balance the state’s budget.

Many of our customers ask whether we can “float the rebates.”  The critical issue in financing is who advances the money for the solar energy system, which is not an insubstantial cost. Last year, we conducted a survey and found that financing to the homeowner stands as the single greatest impediment to homeowners opting to put solar modules on their roofs.

So the solar installer does what any good businessperson must do to attract business and pay the bills: look for credit from any source possible, including a supplier like SolarTown. (If you were still wondering, we unfortunately do not have the resources to float the rebates.) And when financing is not available from banks or suppliers, these solar installers do what they have to do to generate business in these tough economic times: they provide credit to their customers from their own not-so-deep pockets. That is the only way to close the deal and to allow their customer to place these solar energy systems on their roofs.

This financing of course puts the solar installer at risk if there are delays in receiving the rebates. What happens when the rebates are in jeopardy? Two words spring to mind: panic and chaos—which is exactly what is happening in New Jersey today. New Jersey has temporarily suspended the solar rebate program and has announced that it will not take any further applications until September. If you are a small installer paying your labor and equipment with the expectation that you will receive the rebates in a timely manner, this announcement must have produced uncertainty at best and panic at worst. This move seems to be pound wise and penny foolish as no doubt the solar installers will have to lay off some of their workers and wait until the rebates become available in September—just as the economy is beginning to recover.

We have consistently maintained that the economic incentives are vital to small-scale solar projects, and a stable and reliable source of these incentives is essential for the solar industry to grow in the U.S. New Jersey has been a leader in solar energy but this latest moves is a significant setback to the solar industry in New Jersey.

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