Bill aims to help low-income NJ families hit hardest by financial, health impacts of COVID-19
Trenton, NJ — Justice, solar and community advocates applaud the New Jersey state Senate for passing of the NJ Clean Energy Equity Act, S. 2484 today. The bill aims to help low-income New Jersey families benefit from solar, storage and energy efficiency through bill savings, job training and local investment.
“Passing the state Senate is a huge step toward building energy and financial resilience in low-income New Jersey communities. As the state considers another lock down, sustainable savings solutions for low-income households and environmental justice communities, as well as local jobs and economic investment, is even more important,” said Pari Kasotia, Mid-Atlantic Director for Vote Solar. “The Clean Energy Equity Act will provide the direction and tools to create a stronger, more resilient, and sustainable post-COVID New Jersey.”
The bill is the first step in implementing the New Jersey Equitable and Resilient Solar + Storage Policy Roadmap, which outlines how New Jersey can help at least 250,000 low-income families reduce their energy bills with clean energy and install 400 megawatts of local storage by 2030. To ensure equitable outcomes the bill also establishes the Office of Clean Energy Equity by statute.
“Clean energy is an issue that positively impacts both our environment and economy,” said Senator Troy Singleton (D-Burlington). “All New Jerseyans – regardless of income – should have access to clean energy and its many benefits, which include utility savings and career opportunities. The Office of Clean Energy Equity will make sure that clean energy programs are equitable, accessible and affordable for low-income families, and it aligns perfectly with our efforts to enact environmental justice reforms here in New Jersey. I am especially thankful for Vote Solar’s hard work and advocacy on this issue.”
The Clean Energy Equity Act also instructs the Department of Labor to provide grants and additional programs to develop solar and clean energy curriculum, and paid workforce training programs that provide solar training to at least 2,500 individuals from overburdened communities by 2025.
“Making solar more available to low income, urban and people of color communities is an environmental justice issue. Newark residents are on the front lines of overlapping health, climate, economic, racial and democratic crises and this bill helps tackle all of them. It will stimulate business, address climate justice, and reduce the number of kids and seniors gasping for air from an asthma attack, running to the ER, missing school and work, and suffering premature death disproportionately,” said South Ward Environmental Alliance coordinator Kim Gaddy, a Newark resident with three asthmatic children.
The bill will also require that all new construction in low-income and environmental justice communities be solar ready, reducing future costs for families and businesses that choose to go solar.
“Incorporating design elements in buildings that allow for solar rooftops and water heating systems will create good jobs for local residents and improve public health where they’re needed most,” said Clean Water Action NJ State Director Amy Goldsmith.
The bill is currently in the Telecommunication and Utilities Committee in the state Assembly. The first hearing on the bill is not yet scheduled.
Members of the NJ Shines coalition supporting the bill added the following statements:
“Today’s Senate vote puts New Jersey one step closer to ensuring that the benefits of solar and clean energy – including local jobs and workforce training, economic opportunity, energy cost savings, healthy and resilient communities – are prioritized for New Jersey’s low-income and overburdened communities,” said Stan Greschner, Chief Policy Officer with GRID Alternatives. “We urge the Assembly to follow suit and make New Jersey a national model for building back better with equitable clean energy deployment through the passage of the Clean Energy Equity Act.”
“The Senate passage today of the Office of Clean Energy Equity to ensure solar and energy efficiency programs are provided throughout the state, especially our cities, is incredibly welcome,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Renewables and energy efficiency can be a triple win for our cities and low-to-moderate income residents, but only if we are adequately funding our renewable and energy efficiency programs. Our cities and communities of color have been hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and we need to make sure we’re prioritizing them and clean energy during our recovery process. Kudos to Sen. Singleton and Sen. Rice for pushing this bill to passage and we urge the Assembly to move forward on this legislation.”
“I commend the Senate for passing this timely legislation and Sen. Singleton for his continued leadership on energy equity,” said Gary Skulnik, CEO of Neighborhood Sun. “We look forward to passage in the Assembly and then doing our part to help create a more just, equitable and cleaner energy future for all of New Jersey.”
“Today was an important step toward ensuring New Jersey’s overburdened communities have equal access to the benefits of renewable energy through community solar,” said Leslie Elder, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access. “The State Assembly should follow the Senate’s lead and recognize that low-income families deserve a just and equitable transition to clean energy.”
“Equity and access are central to the Clean Energy Equity Act, which aims to serve the clean energy needs of New Jersey’s most underserved households. And today, thanks to our allies in the New Jersey Senate, we are one step closer to ensuring that the benefits of a clean energy transition reach all New Jersey families,” said Luis Nasvytis Torres, Senior Legislative Representative, Earthjustice. “This is a timely bill, and critically needed, given that low-income households have some of the highest energy burdens in the state. That is why we look forward to working with our partners in the New Jersey Assembly to get this legislation over the finish line and unlock the benefits of community solar, storage, and clean energy equity programs.”