With an idle solar panel factory as a backdrop, New Jersey Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie accused Gov. Jon S. Corzine of not doing enough to help clean energy businesses thrive.
Meanwhile, Corzine was in a nearby town lauding the expansion of another such company.
The sparring over energy policy clearly signals that the governor’s race is on.
“It shows that environment and energy are going to be issues in this race, and that is good for the environment, said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club.
Christie visited EPV Solar Inc. in Robbinsville Tuesday, where 400 workers at the state’s only solar panel manufacturer have been furloughed since December. Christie said Corzine has not provided sufficient incentives to green industries.
“He should come to Princeton Power (Systems), which is not sitting idle, it’s expanding. It’s doubled in size in the last two years,” said Corzine, who was at the West Windsor company to open a new headquarters, after hearing of Christie’s remarks.
Princeton University engineering graduates founded Princeton Power, which makes products that reduce industrial energy consumption. The company has received $2 million in grants and loans from state agencies such as the Economic Development Authority.
Christie said the idled factory he visited , and the fact that EPV built a new facility in Germany, not New Jersey , is evidence of Corzine’s failed energy policy.
“He’s talked a good game, but has delivered very little,” Christie said of the incumbent Democrat he is hoping to unseat in November.
Christie accused Corzine of failing to provide economic assistance in the form of grants, low-interest loans or tax breaks to EPV.
However, EDA spokesman Glenn Phillips said the agency has helped he company. EPV received aid under a tax transfer program that allowed it to sell business losses to profitable companies, which then get tax breaks. EPV also received a $500,000 interest-free loan from EDA, Phillips said.
The agency rejected EPV’s request for a grant of up to $2 million last December because it did not meet the requirements.
Christie is spending the week laying out his renewable energy plan, which isn’t that far from Corzine’s vision but differs in how to get there. Christie said as governor he would persuade companies to manufacture solar panels and wind turbines in New Jersey by offering them tax credits; market green energy to consumers; install solar panels on every landfill; and make permits for solar farms easier to get and use preserved farmland for solar panels.
Corzine said the already is creating green jobs. It has one of the nation’s biggest solar programs to encourage solar power and is trying to develop the nation’s first offshore wind energy project. Corzine also signed a plan calling for 30 percent of the state’s energy to be renewable by 2020.
New Jersey is No. 2 in the nation, behind California, in installation of solar panels, Corzine said, quoting a statistic he got from the Solar Energy Industries Association’s 2008 review.
Christie said New Jersey ranked 43rd in renewable energy production, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Corzine said the 2007 statistic is outdated and misleading because it includes alternate energy sources like ethanol, which are not practical in New Jersey.