Solar in Sussex Borough

For more information about current SREC pricing, visit The New Jersey CleanEnergy Program website at http://www.njcleanenergy.com/srecpricing. Note the volatility of the trading prices.

Around the same time that Sussex County was considering moving forward with their solar project, Sussex Borough was also considering a solar project. The council, of which Jonathan M. Rose was a member, was told that there was a great deal of money to be made, and that private companies were very interested in locating on property owned by governmental agencies because it made zoning and planning issues moot, and made capital available at lower costs that could be had in the private borrowing market. However, as the council researched it further, they discovered that there was no way to hedge the future costs of the project in order to guarantee that both the taxpayers would be protected in the tumultuous solar energy (SREC) market and that any profit or energy savings could occur. As a result, the project was never implemented, and was finally cancelled for good after Jonathan became mayor. The taxpayers of Sussex Borough have not had to bear any of the burdens of a failed local solar project.

First Principles

It is the highest impertinence and presumption‚Ķ in kings and ministers, to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense‚Ķ They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society. Let them look well after their own expense, and they may safely trust private people with theirs. If their own extravagance does not ruin the state, that of their subjects never will. —Adam Smith, The Wealth Of Nations

The proper role of government is not to interfere in the free market, but rather to act as a referee. The very fact that private companies are jockying to partner with governments of all levels to build renewalable energy projects should give us pause. Energy markets should be free markets; distorting these markets with taxpayers' dollars will only ensure that goods and services will not be efficiently allocated.

Sussex County's Solar Settlement and Its Problems

On Wednesday, February 25, 2015, the Sussex County Freeholder Board voted 3-2 to adopt a settlement plan for the solar project. The details of the resolution and settlement passed by the Freeholder Board are available at http://www.sussex.nj.us/Cit-e-Access/news/index.cfm?NID=36918&TID=7&jump2=0. The documents show that:

Where We Go From Here

A full accounting of both the funds spent and how the county came to be in the situation it is in should be undertaken by a disinterested third party, preferably from outside the state and political jurisdictions that are partners in the solar project. If criminal malfeasance is discovered, those responsible should be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law. The Freeholder Board should look at the failures of its vetting process for the RFP that created the solar project and take concrete action to ensure that these never occur again. If any employees or contractors of Sussex County who advised on the failed solar project are found to have had conflicts of interest or to have withheld information from the Freeholder Board regarding the project, their employment should be terminated immediately. Finally, all documentation the Freeholder Board has, including those deliberations that occurred in closed session, should be released to the public posthaste.