The state’s Board of Public Utilities was scheduled to start a series of public hearings next week to update the state’s Energy Master Plan, until Gov. Phil Murphy announced Friday the start of planning for a new EMP for 2024.
Since the current EMP has yielded many questions regarding the costs and feasibility of achieving 100% clean energy status by 2050 – with few answers – NJBIA Deputy Government Affairs Chief Ray Cantor says there’s no time like the present for the state to recognize and reassess what’s possible and what’s not.
“A lot has been learned over the last four years, both at home and abroad, that brings into question some of the primary decarbonization strategies in the 2019 Energy Master Plan,” Cantor said. “We hope that the Murphy administration has learned from those experiences and makes appropriate adjustments.
“As a basic premise, we must recognize that our goals of decarbonization cannot be looked at from only one side of the ledger. The fossil fuels that the EMP seeks to replace are the basis of New Jersey’s and the world’s energy supply and its infrastructure has been built up over a century. Replacing those sources of energy is not a simple as setting an unrealistic goal with a deadline.”
By law, the Energy Master Plan must be updated every five years.
In Friday’s announcement, Gov. Murphy said New Jersey must “renew our commitment to a clean energy economy while taking stock of the breadth of resources at our disposal.”
“In addition to taking into consideration the implications of new state and federal policies, the 2024 Energy Master Plan will seek to better capture economic costs and benefits, as well as ratepayer impacts, throughout our journey toward a clean energy future,” Murphy said in a statement.
Murphy also said the previously planned EMP hearings, which were supposed to start on Jan. 26, will be rescheduled later in the year to inform the EMP Plan Committee.
Cantor has been vocal about the need for New Jersey to decarbonize in a matter that is both ambitious, but realistic.
NJBIA, and many other business and trade groups, have opposed the current EMP policy of 100% electrification of New Jersey’s transportation and building sectors – because, they say, it is not realistic or cost-effective.
“Such a policy would require at least a tripling of electrical supply and a substantial upgrade and realignment of our electrical grid system,” Cantor said. “It also ignores the hundreds of billions of dollars of existing investment and demands that every vehicle be electric and every building converted.
“The sheer magnitude of this undertaking makes it unrealistic. Its cost impacts would make basic living unaffordable for many, especially our most disadvantaged populations.”
Over the past year, there has been a growing awareness of skyrocketing energy costs among policymakers and the public.
In 2022, legislation that prohibits the state from mandating electric heating or electric water heating systems for New Jersey homes and businesses was passed unanimously by the Senate.
And last month, the state Department of Environmental Protection withdrew a provision in its PACT Rules that would require new boilers in buildings to be electric starting in 2025.
At the same time, the BPU in 2022 accepted the release of a study of how the Murphy administration’s clean energy goals would impact ratepayers and businesses.
The report, which was chided by BPU Commissioner Dianne Solomon because of the number of caveats in it, came more than 930 days after the announcement of the EMP.
Cantor and many others said the study did not fully address both ratepayer impacts and the total costs of recommendations.
He also adds the state’s drive to only electrify to reduce carbon is not the correct approach.
“An all-electrification policy ignores other options for carbon reduction that will develop over time such as hydrogen and renewable natural gas,” Cantor said. “It discounts the possibility of carbon capture and storage to eliminate source and atmospheric carbon emissions. It ignores technologies available today such as CNG that can have immediate benefits. It also ignores the still unknown technologies that are to come, that may never get developed if the mandates and the resources won’t support it.
“While we are supporters of our budding wind industry as well as our solar industry, we cannot decarbonize our electricity sector by renewables alone. Natural gas has been the primary factor in all of our carbon reduction efforts to date. It is an essential fuel for both heating and electricity production. It cannot simply be willed into non-existence.
“We have seen the problems with such strategies in Europe, and especially Germany, whose anti-natural gas policies have led to them burning more coal than they have in decades as well as wood. And costs for all their energy have skyrocketed. This is not a rational or effective energy strategy. We need to learn from their mistakes.”