As a coastal community on the Eastern Seaboard, few other states in the nation have the same vested interest in solutions to climate change than New Jersey. That is why we anticipated the state to release a new energy master plan that would be both challenging in its proposals and aggressive in its timelines. Yet, unfortunately, the plan appears to be based more on a public relations agenda than sound, realistic public policy.
Essentially, the plan seeks to fully convert the state’s energy generation and consumption to 100% “renewable” sources by 2050 — primarily defining renewable as electric energy only, generated through wind and solar sources. In tandem, the state would phase out all other sources of energy, including clean, affordable, and reliable natural gas.
The plan, however, glazes over several key concerns. One is that the new energy sources are still in the conceptual phase. Another is that the state seeks to phase out all other energy sources on a timetable that appears faster than the new sources may materialize. And, not the least of concerns, is the extremely high cost to consumers through the required retrofit of all homes and businesses, as well as the astronomical price of electricity compared to other resources.
Consider this: 75% of New Jersey energy consumers currently depend on natural gas. Under the energy master plan, all of those families and businesses will have to convert their homes entirely for electric only. Current conversion estimates for an average home in today’s market is about $20,000 to 30,000 per unit — a cost likely to increase over the years. Extrapolating that price for just one house, you can imagine the extreme cost for every retail outlet, office building, school, hospital, municipal building, manufacturing facility and more
Additionally, it’s important to underscore that electricity already is the highest priced energy source for New Jersey consumers. Those currently relying on natural gas and other resources can expect to see their bills jump to double or triple the current rate that they pay. On top of that, consumers also will be saddled with the astronomical cost — through rate adjustments – to build out the massive transmission and distribution infrastructure necessary to handle the additional loads on the grid.
Timing on the rushed phase-in of this new energy system also creates concerns. New Jersey currently relies upon 18,000 MW of power at peak energy use. Per NJBPU data, 44% of that currently comes from natural gas whereas only 4% comes from renewable energy resources. In order for the energy master plan to work, somehow the private sector — or the state — has to build all new energy sources to meet the additional 96% during the next 30 years. Keep in mind, this also requires the construction of that substantial new transmission and distribution grid — launching from 20 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean onto New Jersey beaches, and sprawling throughout communities near and far.
The biggest question is why? Why gamble with a relatively stable energy structure relied upon by almost 9 million residents and 900,000 businesses in this state? Why risk energy shortages and substantially increased costs to local families?
New Jersey already has reduced its carbon footprint by more than 10% during the past two decades and continues to do so. In fact, according to Choose Energy, only 17.7% of New Jersey’s carbon footprint stems from electric power generation, compared to the national average of 34.8%. By far, the largest contributor to CO2 emissions in New Jersey is transportation, making up 52.4% of the state’s carbon footprint.
The New Jersey Energy Master Plan isn’t a realistic plan. We need to take a more responsible approach and move forward with a much more sound public energy policy.
Ron Morano is the Executive Director of Affordable Energy for New Jersey, a 501(c)4 dedicated to educating New Jersey residents and businesses about the realistic needs of our energy future.