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

Posted in Energy Insecurity, op-ed.

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