New Jersey aimed to be a leader in solar energy, ahead of California, in having the best rebate and the best incentives, says Quentin Kelly, chairman of Worldwater & Power Corporation at Pennington Business Park. His international solar energy and water management firm has high-powered, patented solar technology for commercial, agricultural, and residential applications. Targeting the New Jersey market, he had hired nine people to sell solar installations to homeowners.
But on August 25 Worldwater posted a sign on its website: No more orders. That’s because residential rebate applications got clogged in the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) pipeline. One of Worldwater’s commercial contracts also dropped off BPU’s rebate list. Worth more than $1 million, it was a wastewater treatment and water utility plant in Hightstown.
“We go to work only when the rebates are approved,” says Kelly. “We were able to install only five residential jobs and have as many stacked up. Three or four weeks ago we had to stop selling.”
“The whole idea was to jump-start getting solar into homes as well as businesses, and the lack of rebates has completely stopped the home business,” says Kelly. He is having to lay off the sales people he hired or blend them into the commercial division.
Kelly points out that the solar installation rebate money is not supposed to be dependent on the legislature; it comes from a minuscule societal benefit tax on utility bills.
Some say the BPU had 10 times as many applications as it could fund. Others point out that, for the past several years the BPU has been busy fending off political attacks, including a whistle blower lawsuit that resulted in an audit by the state treasury department and a grand jury investigation, and they claim this was the reason why the pipeline to rebate monies got clogged.
“Once Treasury started its audit, instead of trying to grow the program, BPU officials began spending hours every day explaining what they do to the auditors who are not renewable energy specialists,” says Phillips. “It has become a bureaucratic nightmare.”
“Everybody was so excited
we that we had a little bit of money for renewable energy,” says Phillips. “For the very first time solar is taking off — in New Jersey, the United States, and Europe — because of policies. Investment
is coming in like crazy. We are
actually growing a renewable energy sector. When something like this happens — though it has nothing to do with the subject at hand — the result will potentially kill
the growth of solar energy
and renewables in New Jersey. It gets serious when businesses lay
“We have a thriving solar energy business now. The BPU needs to appropriate more money for this. They haven’t done it,” says Phillips. “People are putting in applications that may take them a year to get approval, but BPU was not ready to handle this success. Because of a treasury audit and a criminal investigation triggered by the audit — certain legislators clamored for an investigation — a really good program that was growing solar energy is now virtually shut down.”
One encouraging note: Just before this article went to press, on August 31, the BPU was scheduled to move money dedicated to future years into this year’s pot. Kelly hoped that BPU would reveal what additional projects, if any, would be funded.
“What they really need to do,” says Phillips, “is make a policy
decision on growing solar energy and perhaps the governor and the legislature needs to get involved.”
WorldWater & Power Corp. (WWAT.OB), 55 Route 31 South, Pennington 08534; 609-818-0700; fax, 609-818-0720. Quentin T. Kelly, chairman. www.worldwater.com