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PSE&G Proposes US $773M Solar Energy Program

Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSE&G) asked New Jersey regulators to approve a US $773-million proposal to bring 120 megawatts (MW) of solar power directly to communities and customers throughout its service territory.

In a filing with the state's Board of Public Utilities, PSE&G proposed its Solar 4 All Program with one segment that includes the largest pole-attached solar installation in the country. PSE&G plans to invest in, own and operate the grid-connected solar energy systems and will collaborate with experienced solar developers, installers and manufacturers to develop projects.

"We designed our program to ensure that everyone has access to the benefits of solar energy," said Ralph LaRossa, president and COO of PSE&G. "The program strongly supports New Jersey's aggressive renewable energy and environmental goals and helps to strengthen the competitive solar industry in the state. By partnering with solar developers, we will bring solar projects online more quickly and cost effectively. We will also make solar energy available to every neighborhood in our service area, ensuring universal access."

Each utility investment will be recovered over 15 to 20 years, but the rate impact will be offset by the value of the electricity and Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) produced by the systems as well as federal tax credits that will flow back to utility customers. PSE&G said that it would support a mechanism that would limit the amount of SRECs it sells via auction if the state already had enough SRECs to satisfy the solar requirement for that year.

Installation costs are expected to be $6.44 per watt of installed solar capacity. The company is proposing a plan to recover all direct program costs, including costs related to its invested capital. The impact on a typical residential customer is forecasted to be 10 cents per month in the first full year of the program and increases up to 35 cents per month in 2013.

PSE&G's Solar 4 All Program includes four segments:

Neighborhood Solar (40 megawatts) - $264 million investment

PSE&G will contract with solar developers selected from a competitive bidding process to design, manufacture and procure solar devices for nearly 200,000 utility poles and street lights in neighborhoods throughout PSE&G's service territory.

Local Government Solar (43 megawatts) - $273 million investment


Solar developers will install roof-mounted systems on public schools as well as on municipal and county-owned buildings. An additional incentive will be offered to municipalities in Urban Enterprise Zones by providing more installed capacity. PSE&G will own and operate the systems. Local governments will receive a credit on their utility bill equal to the amount of energy generated by the system, thereby reducing costs and helping every taxpayer in towns served by PSE&G.

Centralized Solar (35 megawatts) - $221 million investment


PSE&G will contract for the design and manufacture of 25 megawatts of ground- or roof-mounted solar systems on land or buildings it owns. Systems on utility-owned properties will be installed by PSE&G's skilled workforce or contractors. In addition, the company will work with developers to install 10 megawatts of larger solar energy farms on brownfields, non-profit-owned real estate, and underdeveloped real estate to convert them to productive sites for renewable generation.

HMFA/Affordable Housing Solar (2 megawatts) - $15 million investment


PSE&G will invest up to $15 million in roof-mounted solar systems to provide electricity at New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA)-financed or other affordable housing communities, resulting in savings for residents.

Mike Taylor, the Solar Electric Power Association's (SEPA) director of research and education, said the project is similar to other utility initiative in the U.S. but is also unique in its own right because of its plan to mount solar panels on up to 200,000 utility poles.

"In 2008, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Duke Energy all announced similar programs focusing on utility ownership of distributed photovoltaics. This 'distributed power plant' business model is a trend we expect to see continue in the future," Taylor said. "No other utility to my knowledge has taken a similar approach. In addition to adding solar capacity to the grid, this application has the potential for great educational value, both in familiarizing utility personnel with solar technology and putting widely deployed solar in front of millions consumers."

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