Singleton bill would create $200 million loan pool for green infrastructure

TRENTON — It’s no secret that so-called green infrastructure such as solar panels and energy-efficient appliances and lights can help consumers save money and reduce their energy consumption, but few homeowners and small businesses have the money needed to pay the upfront costs.

Legislation authored by Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7th of Palmyra, aims to address that need by creating a $200 million state loan program to help consumers and businesses finance green infrastructure improvements.

“By making energy-efficiency improvements more accessible and affordable to those who have traditionally been underserved, we can alleviate the financial impact and put more New Jerseyans to work through pro-green-energy initiatives,” Singleton said. “Creating an innovative system, while furthering New Jersey’s goals to be environmental leaders, is a win-win situation.”

Introduced last week, Singleton’s bill would create the loan program within the state Economic Development Authority, which would issue bonds to finance it. Consumers would pay back the loans via a special line item on their monthly electricity bill, which will likely be reduced because of the improvement.

If a property is sold or rented to a new tenant before the loan is repaid, the new owner or resident would take over repayment.

Singleton envisions the loans would be used to finance improvements such as solar panel installation, insulation upgrades, air sealing, energy-efficient furnaces, boilers, water heaters, air conditioners, lighting fixtures and appliances.

The proposed program is modeled after similar endeavors in South Carolina and New York.

The South Carolina program was created by an independent energy cooperative to fund insulation upgrades. Customers participating in the pilot program saw an average 34 percent savings on their electricity bills after receiving loans to finance improvements, enough to repay the loans and still enjoy additional savings.

New York’s program provides low-interest loans of up to $25,000 a year for energy-saving improvements.

Six other states, including California, have also created green energy loan programs.

Singleton, who serves on the Assembly's Commerce and Economic Development Committee, said the measure will help both consumers and New Jersey’s economy by creating a broader market for green infrastructure improvements. It could also help the state reach its goal of having at least 20 percent of its electricity come from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, he said.

“This measure will not only help provide a pathway towards our nation’s goal of energy self-sufficiency, but will also provide greater energy security and diversification,” Singleton said. “It will also support the effort to meet the renewable portfolio standards and efficiency requirements in New Jersey’s evolving energy market.”
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