New Jersey has recently launched the New Jersey Energy Resilience Bank (ERB), a public infrastructure bank focusing on energy resilience. As part of Governor Christie’s continuing efforts to minimize the impact of future major power outages and increase energy resiliency of critical facilities, New Jersey’s ERB was created to specifically address, and prevent, a repeat of the devastating impacts of Superstorm Sandy, when over 8 million people lost electric power in the region. This is a substantial step in creating new public financing to support local distributed energy projects that can provide continuous power before, during, and after severe weather events.
This innovative approach is the result of collaboration between the NJ Board of Public Utilities and the NJ Economic Development Authority, and will be initially funded with $200 million from New Jersey’s second Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery allocation. The ERB will offer financing packages and technical assistance to help facilities install or upgrade distributed energy resources or micro-grids, which may have been previously unfeasible due to their high cost. The ERB will not only make direct loans and grants but provide credit enhancement for bond issuance and other private financing participations.
The ERB has started to accept applications from water and wastewater treatment plants, the first group of facilities targeted for the program, with $65 million allocated to support distributed energy projects such as combined heat and power, fuel cells and off-grid solar inverters with battery storage. Future funding should be available for other critical facilities, including hospitals, emergency response facilities, municipal town centers, correctional facilities, transportation and transit, public housing, and regional high schools that can be used as shelters in case of emergency.
Importantly, there are certain minimum requirements an entity must meet in order to be eligible for ERB funding, including direct physical damage to a facility, or indirect damage caused by Sandy or another eligible disaster, with a demonstration of support for local community revitalization, and
- area flooding and/or loss of power that prevented the facility from treating wastewater, causing a release of sewage/storm water into the surrounding waterway; or
- area flooding and/or loss of power from a qualifying disaster that prevented the facility from operating and being able to treat drinking water.
The ERB recommends detailed pre-application activities, including completion of an energy audit, meeting with the One-Stop Permitting Office of the Department of Environmental Protection, and confirming compatibility with the local electric distribution company infrastructure. Offers of financing will be made subject to the availability of funds.