The Board of Public Utilities (BPU) released their ‘update’ to the 2011 Energy Master Plan for New Jersey last Friday evening after 5:00 PM. The BPU snuck the Energy Master Plan out on a Friday night to avoid public scrutiny. They did this because they did not want the public to know how bad it is. The EMP does not promote an increase in clean energy; it provides no changes to the goals for renewable energy, meaning no expansions. This update is essentially the same as the old plan, fails to mention climate change, and holds New Jersey to the same weak standards for renewable energy as the last one.
“The 2011 Energy Master Plan is not an update- it is out-of-date. The EMP relies on the fossil fuels of the past and doubles down on natural gas instead of moving forward with innovative technology and green jobs. Since the last Energy Master Plan came out the world has changed. We were devastated by Hurricane Sandy and green energy technology has advanced. Renewable energy has gotten cheaper and easier to put in creating more clean power. Last year, for the first time, there was more renewable energy installed than fossil fuels. This plan has not expanded the renewable energy portfolio for offshore wind or done anything to promote additional renewable energy. The plan fails to address an energy efficiency standard or any new programs to conserve energy. It’s basically: ‘meet your new plan, same as the old plan.’ This plan promotes natural gas, blocks wind from going forward and is still pushing the same old programs,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
The 2015 EMP update fails to fix the problems from the 2011 version. The 2011 EMP reduced our renewable energy goals from the 2008 plan and increased fossil fuels. This shifted the state from utilizing renewable energy to natural gas. We have the tools to reduce greenhouse emissions and make sure that New Jersey’s energy future is built on clean renewable energy and energy efficiency. Our state was on track to meet the clean energy goals outlined in 2008, but instead this setback has cost the state economic stability and critical pollution reductions.
“This plan is full of hot air; it’s still promoting natural gas and fossil fuels over renewable energy and energy efficiency. California has committed to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 and New Jersey is being left in the smog. Instead of moving the state forward with jobs and economic growth, we are more concerned with Big Oil than clean energy jobs. While the world is moving forward in Paris, the status quo is moving backwards. People are demanding action on climate change and reducing air pollution. Not only does this plan do anything to prevent climate change, it does not even mention it in the plan,” said Jeff Tittel. “The EMP should be moving forward to catch up with the public and the technology to reduce greenhouse gasses. The 2011 EMP shifted us from increasing renewable energy to more natural gas. Since then, three new natural gas plants are being built. New Jersey should be ending subsidies for traditional power sources and investing in renewable energy and demand response.”
The EMP should be focused on reducing our reliance on dirty fossil fuels. We should be closing coal plants out completely. Instead, it is keeps coal going and we should be retiring the dirty coal plants Mercer and Hudson. If we close these coal plants right away we can prevent serious health impacts, especially near environmental justice communities. According to the report Toll from Coal, 531 people in New Jersey die each year from coal related deaths. There are 445 hospitalizations and 987 heart attacks in New Jersey from coal plants. This summer, New Jersey had over ten Ozone Action Days where sensitive individuals were told to stay inside because of poor air quality.
“Communities throughout New Jersey are being impacted by air pollution and new fossil fuel plants while our open spaces and environmentally sensitive lands are being targeted by pipeline after pipeline. People are also concerned about oil bomb trains and pipelines that are unsafe cutting through their communities. Instead of moving New Jersey forward to a clean energy future this EMP will continue to allow dirty projects to pollute our environment and endanger our health,” said Jeff Tittel
The one positive area of this EMP update is the potential expansion of solar power because of a drop of energy use due to energy efficiency. This is a good thing because we haven’t been meeting our potential when it comes to renewable energy like solar and wind. New Jersey was poised to be the first state in the nation with offshore wind. Offshore wind projects could provide a third of our energy needs and provide 3,000 megawatts worth of energy by 2020, which is in the EMP. If we had that energy supply, we could close down the Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Plant, BL England, and not have to open the three natural gas plants being built.
“New Jersey has fallen behind other states when it comes to clean energy and clean energy jobs. We were 2nd in the nation for solar installations and we’re now 7th. We had 10,000 jobs in solar and are down to 5,500. We were 7th in energy efficiency and are now 21st. We were supposed to be the first state in the nation to have offshore wind. Even though five years ago Christie signed the Offshore Economic Development Act and the EMP calls for 3,000 megawatts of wind power, the Christie Administration has blocked financing rules for offshore wind,” said Jeff Tittel.
Since Governor Christie came into office we have had more than 19 major weather events including a super storm followed by a Nor’easter. The effects that climate change could potentially have on New Jersey can be devastating from storm surges to flooding. Flooding in New Jersey will most likely become a regular occurrence and worsen if we continue to ignore climate change. New Jersey depends greatly on coastal tourism and many of our residents live along the coast. In order to lessen these effects we need start investing in clean energy sources now before it is too late.
“We can re-enter the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), implement the Off Shore Wind Law, and increase the Renewable Portfolio standard for solar. We can make sure that 30 percent of our energy comes from renewable sources by 2020 rather than the current 22.5 percent. We can get all our electricity from renewable energy by 2030; the technology is there. The federal government (BOEM) just auctioned off leases for offshore wind off our coast. New Jersey has the potential to reach all of these goals but we need our EMP to catch up,” said Jeff Tittel. “All these people showed up at the hearings to promote renewable energy but the BPU didn’t listen. Instead they stayed with the fossil foolishness of the past.”
New Jersey should be working with the EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The CPP requires reductions in greenhouse gasses and encourages states to participate in regional compacts like Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Instead, New Jersey has pulled out of RGGI and now the BPU’s EMP Update does nothing to increase renewable energy.
“RGGI worked; New Jersey received over $40 million a year and it created over 1,800 jobs. It reduced carbon pollution by 18 million tons. RGGI would help implement the EMP and Clean Power Plan goals and provide funding for energy efficiency. Energy efficiency cuts peak demand, preventing the use of weaker plants, which prevent blackouts, air pollution, and saves New Jersey residents’ money. The EMP should have stricter goals for renewable energy and the state should re-enter RGGI,” said Jeff Tittel.
The Christie Administration has cut clean energy programs while supporting pipelines, dirty fuels, and rolling back our renewable energy goals by 2020 from 30% to 22.5%. New Jersey was a leader in clean energy and energy efficiency before Governor Christie. The Christie Administration has cut clean energy programs while supporting pipelines, dirty fuels, and rolling back our renewable energy goals.
“In a state like New Jersey that has been devastated by climate change impacts, we should be working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve all of our electricity from renewable energy by 2050. Without energy efficiency standards in place, the EMP is EMPTY: there’s nothing new in it. Governor Christie refuses to move forward with renewable energy because of his national political ambitions. New Jersey has the power and the will to meet these goals but we need the state government to catch up,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “In the EMP they’re saying that everything is fine with the current goals. This is like Kevin Bacon in Animal House saying everything is fine right before he gets run over by the mob.”