The Great Solar Panel Rip-off: Part 3
Every day this week we will be reposting the five part series; “The Great Solar Panel Rip-off”. This series looks at the project that resulted in over 200,000 solar panels being attached to telephone poles across the state. Today’s post looks at the Assemblyman who was the driving force behind this project.
In part 1 of this series we looked at the projected power that would be generated by the installation of solar panels on telephone poles across New Jersey. Part 2 was spent looking at how these panels were installed and if all of these panels could really deliver the projected power output. In part 3 we look at the New Jersey Assemblyman who has been the leading advocate of this waste of ratepayers’ monies.
Many legislators in Trenton have worked overtime in order to shackle the citizens of New Jersey with excessive energy costs. This has been done by passing laws that require utilities to purchase so called “green” energy. This “green” energy comes from various sources including the infamous telephone pole solar panel. If one person can be called the “Godfather” of this project it would be Upendra Chivukula.
Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D) represents the 17th district in New Jersey. He has held this position continuously since he was first elected to in it 2002. This district is composed of Franklin Township, Milltown, New Brunswick, North Brunswick and Piscataway.
Chivukula’s biography reads like a Horatio Alger story. Poor boy, raised in a hut in India, comes to America with a few dollars in his pocket, gets advanced college degree and starts to live the American dream.
I have to admit, I am impressed from what he writes about himself on his website; Upendra Chivukula for Assembly. Here are a few items of interest:
Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering, City College of the City University of New York (New York, NY)
Senior Member, Technical Staff for Bell Laboratories
Consultant, Rangam Consultants, Inc.
Consultant, WTC, Inc.
Here is a little tidbit from his website:
With only a few dollars in his pocket, Upendra immigrated to the United States in 1974, and received a Masters Degree in Electrical Engineering from City College of the City University of New York. At City University, he met his future wife, Dayci.
It is almost enough to bring a tear to your eyes, isn’t it? But, the only thing that will put tears in your eyes is the knowledge that this person is responsible for the astronomical electric rates that people and businesses pay in New Jersey. Before we take a closer look at just how Chivukula has misused his position in the assembly to push solar power for reasons that might not be just for altruistic reasons let’s put down a little bit more of a foundation than the one we find at Chivukula’s website.
From the website Project Vote Smart, we find a complete history of Chivukula’s employment history.
Chair, Rangam Consultants, Incorporated, present
Director, Siratech International, 2001-2004
Director, Compucom Global Solutions, 1999-2001
Senior Product Planner, AT&T Microelectronics, 1988
Account Executive, AT&T Information Systems, 1985-1987
Research Account Developer, AT&T Technologies, 1983
Senior Management Consultant/Systems Engineer, AT&T Bell Labs, 1981-1983
Lead Engineer, Leeds & Northrup, 1980-1981
Design Engineer, Electronic Associates, 1978-1980
CBS Television, 1977-1978
Managing Director, Antarctica Group
Senior Member, Technical Staff for Bell Laboratories
Consultant, WTC, Incorporated
Currently Chivukula says that he is just a “consultant” with Rangam Consultants on his personal website, but from the information that he supplied to Project Vote Smart, he says he is the “Chair” at Rangam, which I assume is “Chairman” of the company. I wonder why he would understate his position at Rangam on his personal/campaign website. Also, all of the places that Chivukula’s biography lists are to the best of my research located in either New Jersey or New York City. I would like you to keep these two pieces of information in mind for reference in later parts of this series.
Chivukula first became a member of the assembly in 2002. Since he joined, he has been very busy introducing and getting bills passed imposing “Green Energy” regulations on the citizens of New Jersey. Here are some of the bills he introduced regarding “Green Energy”. Some have been passed, most notably those bill numbers that start with an “S” which signifies that the final bill was a senate compromise bill with its assembly equivilent:
2006 - 2007
|A4102||Requires BPU financial incentives for photovoltaic equipment for residences that are Energy Star compliant receive preferred treatment.|
|S2936||Revises law concerning electric power net metering, safety and power quality interconnection standards; requires BPU to adopt certain renewable energy credit rules. *|
2008 - 2009
|A849||Directs the BPU to establish certain energy-conservation programs.|
|A1638||Requires BPU financial incentives for photovoltaic equipment for residences that are Energy Star compliant receive preferred treatment.|
|A2507||Authorizes BPU to use Retail Margin Fund monies to provide grants for combined heat and power production, energy efficiency projects and programs promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency; makes an appropriation. **|
|A2550||Permits location of certain wind and solar facilities in industrial zones|
|A2859||Concerns biomass, solar, and wind energy generation on farms. *|
|A2917||Limits electric public utility cost recovery to equipment or software that is compatible with, and capable of interoperating with, a smart grid system.|
|A3062||Defines “inherently beneficial use” for purposes of zoning variance and specifically includes facilities and structures that supply electrical energy produced from wind, solar, or photovoltaic technologies. *|
|A3333||Directs the BPU to establish advanced metering infrastructure standards and authorizes licensing of local renewable energy collaboratives by the BPU. *|
|A3520||“The Solar Energy Advancement and Fair Competition Act.”|
|AR157||Supports wind energy in NJ; and urges Congress to support offshore wind energy development. *|
|S1303||Defines “inherently beneficial use” for purposes of zoning variance and specifically includes facilities and structures that supply electrical energy produced from wind, solar, or photovoltaic technologies. *|
|S1538||Concerns biomass, solar, and wind energy generation on farms. **|
2010 - 2011
|A912||Limits electric public utility cost recovery to equipment or software that is compatible with, and capable of interoperating with, a smart grid system.|
|A915||Authorizes creation of local renewable energy collaborative and central renewable energy generation systems, and provides for sale of renewable power generation. **|
|A1052||Requires State entities to purchase biofuels in place of fossil fuels when reasonable, prudent and cost effective. *|
|A2147||Establishes “Solar Roof Installation Warranty Program” in NJ EDA; appropriates $2 million from “Global Warming Solutions Fund.”|
|A2289||Exempts solar panels from impervious surface or impervious cover designation.|
|A2529||Concerns energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements. **|
|A2872||Regulates imposition of standby charges upon distributed generation customers.|
|A2873||The “Offshore Wind Economic Development Act”; establishes offshore wind renewable energy certificate program, and authorizes EDA to provide tax credits for qualified wind energy facilities in wind energy zones.|
|A3125||Prohibits municipal zoning ordinances from regulating solar panels under certain circumstances; limits fees for certain renewable energy installations.|
|A3142||Directs BPU to establish standards concerning local government renewable energy generation demonstration projects utilizing renewable energy technologies. *|
|A3442||Establishes a long-term capacity agreement pilot program to promote construction of qualified electric generation facilities. *|
|A3991||Provides exception from BPU standards for construction and installation of certain solar and photovoltaic electric generation equipment on utility poles by electric public utilities.|
|A3992||Provides for streamlined review of certain wind energy generation facility installments on farmland. **|
|A4226||Makes changes to solar renewable energy programs and requirements, concerns energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements.*|
|ACR194||Urges PJM Interconnection to study electric transmission system planning requirements to accommodate offshore wind energy.|
|S463||Authorizes creation of local renewable energy collaborative and central renewable energy generation systems, and provides for sale of renewable power generation. *|
|S921||Exempts solar panels from impervious surface or impervious cover designation.|
|S2006||Prohibits municipal zoning ordinances from regulating solar panels under certain circumstances; limits fees for certain renewable energy installations. *|
|S2036||The “Offshore Wind Economic Development Act”; establishes offshore wind renewable energy certificate program, and authorizes EDA to provide tax credits for qualified wind energy facilities in wind energy zones.|
2011 - 2012
|A1377||Requires electric power suppliers to pay retail power prices for purchase of certain renewable energy production.|
|A1384||Establishes alternative energy portfolio standard and certificate program.|
Assemblyman Chivukula started in 2006 to introduce bills that would FORCE the citizens of New Jersey to subsidize the installation of solar panels. During the ensuing years he continued to write bills that would also subsidize other forms of “Green” energy including wind power and bio-fuels. Some of his bills required the suspension of Department of Environmental Protection requirements for wetland development. Other bills forced the BPU to relax safety requirements for local electrical grids. But, the ones that pertain to the “Telephone Solar Panel” project are directed specifically to insure that certain variables are eliminated and others imposed in order for the project to proceed in a very select way. These bills are:
S2936 - Revises law concerning electric power net metering, safety and power quality interconnection standards; requires BPU to adopt certain renewable energy credit rules.
S1303/A3062 - Defines “inherently beneficial use” for purposes of zoning variance and specifically includes facilities and structures that supply electrical energy produced from wind, solar, or photovoltaic technologies
A3991 - Provides exception from BPU standards for construction and installation of certain solar and photovoltaic electric generation equipment on utility poles by electric public utilities.
S2006/A3125 - Prohibits municipal zoning ordinances from regulating solar panels under certain circumstances; limits fees for certain renewable energy installations.
The first bill is simple, it is the one that tells BPU that it must offer energy “credits”, or in other words, free hand outs. It further goes on to compel the BPU to override their current regulations in order to facilitate the introduction of “Green” energy projects. The second one is even more underhanded as it requires municipalities to look at these “Green” energy projects as beneficial when it comes to enforcing zoning requirements. The third one is also very straight forward; it tells the Board of Public Utilities that any of their rules regarding telephone poles do not apply when it comes to the installation of solar panels. This is very interesting since the BPU can tell a utility what it can and cannot do when it comes to mounting equipment on a telephone. By having to override this authority of the BPU would indicate that these panels would not have met the current safety requirements that the BPU has in effect. And finally, number four overrides home rule by telling municipalities that the solar panels will go up, no matter what the local community feels about them. The slogan for this bill should be “Shut-up and Put-up”!
The last two bills are of particular interest for another reason; they both had to be passed in order for this solar panel project to be proceed. Without one, the other means nothing. It might also be considered of great interest that Chivukula was the primary sponsor of both of these bills. By introducing and having both of them passed by the legislature it sure looks like he was trying to push the State of New Jersey to purchase a specific system for the Telephone Pole Solar Panel project. This is something we will look at in part four.
The next time you look at your electric bill and wonder why it is so high, you now know who is responsible. Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula has been working very hard to make it that way.