New Jersey’s Energy Policy Must Emphasize Reliability, Diversity, and Affordability

We Must Learn the Right Lessons from Texas’ Energy Crisis

Special interests on both sides have tried to frame the recent Texas energy crisis to further their own political views. Even as Texans continue to suffer without power, advocates are trying to score points – either pushing further for a promised renewables-only future or blaming those sources alone for the crisis – instead of focusing on the facts.

The public debate has been disingenuous at best, and consciously false at worst.

In New Jersey, we must learn the right lessons from this crisis – and take the politics out of our energy plans to focus on sound public policy. The truth is, we need a balanced, diverse energy grid that relies on a variety of different sources – wind and solar, but also clean natural gas, nuclear, and more – to meet our needs and ensure reliability.

Our energy companies and policymakers alike know the importance of investing in transmission and distribution systems to protect our grid from severe weather. Utilities here know all too well the impacts severe weather can bring and have worked hard to curb those interruptions. Based on reports, while system hardening recommendations were made in 2011, the utilities in Texas did not take those precautions.

Yet, the recent catastrophe in Texas also underscores that we need redundancy and reliability throughout our energy system. That means we can’t rush to electrify everything, and we can’t rely on one source for generation. We need smart, sustainable, and realistic policy that will keep costs low and ensure our residents have a stable supply of energy.

New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan (EMP) proposes a future of entirely renewable sources – before those sources are ready for prime time. Wind and solar alone are not able to meet our needs, and the state does not have a clear, concrete plan to ensure redundancy and reliability of our future grid. Instead, our leaders have demonized important and proven sources such as clean natural gas.

Even worse, the proposed electrification of home heating, transportation, and everything else means our residents won’t have a back-up option in the event of a grid failure. How many businesses and residents in New Jersey have relied on natural gas backup generators to maintain their electricity this winter alone, due to outages.

As we saw in Texas, that could have disastrous consequences. Seventy-five percent of our residents’ homes are currently heated by natural gas all year – and, fortunately, many of these systems work even when the power is out and in severe weather.

Electrifying these systems won’t just threaten the reliability and security our residents depend on. Even worse, it’ll cost hardworking New Jerseyans – a lot. A recent report by Affordable Energy for New Jersey and energy expert Dr. Jonathan Lesser found that the costs of building electrification mandates in New Jersey’s EMP would be at least $2 billion, and potential far more.

To add insult to injury, our residents and businesses won’t just be at the mercy of unstable and unreliable electrical systems – they’ll be paying far more for it.

Diversity helps us avoid energy crises. We need policy that prioritizes diverse sources and an “all-of-the-above” approach. Doing so will help our economy grow, safeguard our residents and our grid, and give businesses the confidence to invest in New Jersey. We have a chance to learn from Texas’ experience and protect our residents. Let’s make sure we take it.

Ron Morano, executive director, Affordable Energy for New Jersey

Op-Ed: NJ needs to rethink Energy Master Plan, prioritize affordable energy

While we were all quarantining at home and keeping our families safe, the state of New Jersey continued to move forward with one of the most impactful policy shifts in state history, implementation of the Energy Master Plan. Even if well-intentioned at the time of its release in February, the EMP was unrealistic then and is even less feasible now, as the COVID-19 pandemic puts our state, our residents and our businesses under financial strain. 

In fact, a new report from Affordable Energy for New Jersey and energy expert Jonathan Lesser has found that the EMP will cost businesses and residents at least $2 billion per year — and potentially far more. At a time when our state faces unprecedented financial crisis and many residents are struggling to pay their bills, that’s a cost New Jersey simply can’t afford to pay. 

Home heating alone poses an immense burden for our state if the bureaucrats behind the EMP have their way. The EMP calls for replacing inexpensive natural-gas heat with electric heaters. That’s all well and good, until we realize that millions of our residents — as high as 75% — rely on these systems in their homes and in businesses. Retrofitting three-quarters of our home-heating supply will costs tens of thousands of dollars for each electric heat pump, totaling tens of billions alone. 

On the flip side, estimates suggest that the PennEast pipeline would have saved residents hundreds of millions in winter heating and electric costs in one season. Expanding our clean natural-gas supplies will lower costs and create jobs at a time when we sorely need them. But the Murphy administration and the EMP would rather grind these projects to a halt and force our residents to stop using natural gas. 

That’s the story of the EMP — well-intentioned, rosy-eyed proposals to electrify this and “modernize” that, without fully considering the total costs at hand. Everywhere we turn, the plan places new costs on hardworking New Jerseyans, with only limited environmental upside. We need smarter policy. 

Technologies like electric heating, solar and wind power and other innovations certainly have a place in New Jersey. It’s encouraging that many residents and businesses have pursued them to help lower our carbon footprint. But we need proven solutions like clean natural gas to help lower costs and provide stable, reliable energy for all. We need a practical, actionable energy policy, not a one-size-fits-all approach. 

To make matters more confusing, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection recently released New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act 80×50 Report, which purports to detail actionable steps to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. The DEP acknowledges that achieving “steep and permanent” cuts in emissions would require effectively eliminating gas-powered cars within the next 10 years, among other dramatic and costly measures. Yet it does not begin to discuss what this will cost New Jersey’s residents and businesses. 

There’s a theme here — when energy policy is concerned, the state too often ignores the cost question or relies on rosy, nigh-on-impossible projects. New Jerseyans need clear, concrete policy initiatives, not guessing games that hurt their wallets. 

We know that natural gas is cost-effective, abundant and inexpensive. The technology is already there, not years away from large-scale production. And industries across the state rely heavily on it. Why fix what isn’t broken? 

New Jersey urgently needs solutions to keep our energy costs down, grow our economy and simultaneously improve the environment. We have the tools for the job at our disposal, but the EMP won’t get the job done. Now is the time to get started. 


Op-Ed: N.J. needs to tackle energy costs, now more than ever

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem as if other important issues have faded from the public eye. In reality, the pandemic means that we must redouble our focus on the day-to-day issues facing New Jersey’s residents, or else face skyrocketing costs at a time when we can least afford them.

As the COVID-19 pandemic forces governments at all levels to contend with revenue shortfalls, it is more important than ever to invest in a diverse, balanced and affordable energy portfolio that will keep costs low for those who live and work in New Jersey.

According to a newly-released whitepaper from Affordable Energy for New Jersey, New Jersey faces a “cost chasm” in the energy sector — one that threatens to increase costs for businesses and residents and could leave us with a fragile, less reliable grid. Fortunately, there is a path to affordable, clean and stable energy systems in our state, and we have the tools to get there.Continue reading