The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities approved an order Wednesday to begin creating a Zero Emission Credit program for nuclear power plants, saying the program will be ready to take applications in November.
The BPU will establish the application process, along with a way for each of the state’s electric companies to buy ZECs from selected nuclear plants. There will be extensive public hearings, the BPU said in a press release.
Ratepayers will ultimately pay for the program through add-on costs on their bills.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed a bill into law in May to create such a program, in order to keep nuclear plants — which do not emit carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases — from closing. The two nuclear plants remaining open in New Jersey after Oyster Creek closes next month will be Salem and Hope Creek nuclear power plants in Lower Alloways Creek, Salem County. They supply about 32 percent of the state’s energy, according to the BPU.
“The new law will help combat climate change by maintaining New Jersey’s nuclear energy supply, which ... is by far New Jersey’s largest source of carbon free energy,” the press release said.
NJBPU President Joseph L. Fiordaliso said the board and staff take seriously their responsibility to analyze the plants’ financial information and determine if credits are warranted. Only those that would close without subsidy will be approved.
The Board will certify which applicants are eligible to receive ZECs and will rank eligible plants. The ranking must be completed by April 2019, under the law, and it will include public input, according to the BPU.
The BPU also approved a proposed rule establishing a three-year Community Solar Energy Pilot Program, which it said will allow utility customers to remotely participate in solar energy projects.
It will create access to solar for households that have been excluded because of too much shade, unsuitable roofing conditions, or inability to afford solar panels on their own, according to another BPU press release. It will earmark 40 percent of program capacity for low- and moderate-income households.
The proposed rule will be published in the New Jersey Register and a 60-day comment period will follow. A full-scale Community Solar Energy Program will be developed within three years, the BPU said.