Blog Post

Can A New Jersey Utility Succeed Where Duke's Struggling?

Newark, N.J.’s Public Service Electric and Gas announced today that it wants to put solar panels pretty much everywhere — on utility poles and streetlights, on the roofs of schools and municipal buildings, on public housing, as well as in some ground-mounted systems — all part of a $773 million proposal to feed 120 megawatts into the grid.


But last month, Charlotte, N.C.-based Duke Energy (s DUK) said it may not go forward withwanted out a similar solar project, unless claiming that the regulator removed restrictions for how it could pay for the plan (We updated this post to clarify the issue). The $50 million project to generate 10 MW of power from rooftop solar installations had already been cut down from $100 million and 20 MW after critics called the utility-owned plan anticompetitive.

Duke planned to recoup its costs entirely through rate hikes, drawing the ire of the North Carolina Utilities Commission, which ruled that Duke could get the solar power at a lower cost from third-party providers.

So how does PSE&G, part of the Public Service Enterprise Group (s PEG), plan to pay for its much larger proposal? Well, customers will end up taking a hit on their monthly bills, but the bulk of the cash will come from new bonds and equity from the Public Service Enterprise Group. The global credit crunch could make that difficult, but Ralph Izzo, CEO of the group, told the New York Times that he doesn’t expect his firm to have a problem issuing the bonds.

The project, called Solar 4 All, will only account for about 1 percent of the power used in the Garden State, but PSE&G said it will satisfy almost 7 percent of the state’s renewable portfolio standards requirements through 2020.

We may have to wait a while to find out if the plan passes muster — the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has 180 days to take action on the proposal — but PSE&G said it hopes to start installations this year, with the entire program rolling out over the next five years.