The goal of setting New Jersey on a path to a conversion of 100% clean energy by 2050 is an exciting move forward for our state’s energy future, but falls well short of what is needed to stop the worst impacts of climate change.
There are some direct ways to strengthen New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan in order to more directly confront the challenges posed by the climate crisis. We urge you to develop an Energy Master Plan that achieves 100% renewable energy from wind and solar by 2035, while preventing the construction of unneeded fossil fuel infrastructure like natural gas pipelines, which will saddle ratepayers with unnecessary costs and stand in the way of achieving 100% clean energy.
1. Rapid Transition: We need a rapid development of clean, renewable power in order to avert the worst impacts of climate change. At the 2015 Paris Climate talks, the nations of the world agreed that preventing the planet from warming 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels “would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” We are rapidly running out of time to achieve this goal. Reducing the majority of emissions from burning fossil fuels in the next 10 years is critical to avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. The EMP must accelerate the timeline to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035.
2. Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Moratorium: The Energy Master Plan must include a moratorium on all new fossil fuel infrastructure. Continuing to rely on fracked natural gas poses a serious threat to our planet. Methane, which is the primary component of fracked gas, is 85 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, and leaks from every stage of the natural gas system — from well sites, processing plants, compressor stations, and even beneath city streets. The EMP must not include any reliance on fossil fuels or policies that continue our reliance on fossil fuels like cap and trade, carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), or gas power plants.
3. Benchmarks: We encourage the BPU to develop an Energy Master Plan that sets interim emissions targets by sector -- electricity generation, transportation, residential and commercial sectors — and that frontloads most of the energy development in that first decade, charting a pathway for 80% clean renewable energy by the year 2028 and 100% clean renewable energy by the year 2035. The EMP should develop a comprehensive blueprint to achieve these interim targets and to require bi-annual monitoring and reporting.
4. Clean Energy Should Be Clean: New Jersey must not allow false solutions like biomass, garbage incinerators, nuclear, or large scale hydroelectric into the Energy Master Plan. Biomass and garbage incinerators emit greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants that adversely impact public health. The current definition of Class I Renewables includes methane from landfills or biomass facilities. Clean renewable energy must be defined as wind and solar. Utility and distributed solar can meet a significant share of New Jersey’s energy needs. Distributed solar policies should focus on maximizing development and access to community solar projects, removing caps on net metering, and changing building codes to require that new construction is fitted with onsite and/or rooftop solar panels. Offshore wind has the technical potential to provide double the energy to meet our current electricity needs, plus estimated demand for electrified vehicles and heating. The Governor’s offshore wind plan is the right step for New Jersey’s energy future.
5 Reject Market-Based Schemes: Allowing utilities to purchase unbundled Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) creates a system of offsets, whereby utilities send dirty energy into the grid and ‘offset’ that by purchasing meaningless credits. Worse yet, ratepayers must subsidize these dirty energy sources through their electricity bills. The state must only allow utilities to purchase RECs from clean energy sources and the state must ensure that the RECs are bundled with the electricity they represent. The EMP must not include practices that continue our reliance on fossil fuels like cap and trade.
6. Promoting Energy Efficiency: Energy efficiency is the "bridge fuel" in our transition to a 100% clean energy system. Energy efficiency can help reduce peak energy demand by reducing our overall energy footprint per user, while creating good jobs in local communities. Energy efficiency programs have the added benefit of saving money for ratepayers who benefit from reduced costs of heating and cooling. New Jersey should implement an energy efficiency portfolio standard that requires utilities to scale up energy efficiency annually, as well as institute policies that significantly increase energy efficiency in the state. Energy efficiency programs must be prioritized in low-income communities and communities of color.
7. Environmental Justice: Communities of color and low- income communities are disproportionately burdened with the public health, economic, social and environmental impacts from polluting energy infrastructure in New Jersey. We uplift and amplify those concerns shared by local community members in the public hearings. The Murphy administration must prioritize environmental justice within the new energy master plan.