EMP Must Be Strong on Renewable Energy

EMP Must Be Strong on Renewable Energy

Today the New Jersey Sierra Club is attending the stakeholder meeting on clean energy in the upcoming New Jersey Energy Master Plan (EMP). New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel released the following statement:

“The most important thing that the BPU must do in the new Energy Master Plan is to make sure the definition of clean energy is renewable energy. This definition should not include natural gas, incinerators, nuclear power, or certain types of biomass fuel. Clean energy should be only current Class 1 Renewables plus small hydro-projects, which is currently Class II. Class 1 Renewable Energy is only for sources of energy that reduce carbon or are carbon-neutral in emission and many biomass fuels don’t fit in this category. The EMP should also work to encourage new renewable energy technologies such as wave and geothermal power, as well as ways to connect renewables to energy storage.

“In order to get to reach our 100% renewable energy goal, we must move away from fossil fuels. First, we need Governor Murphy to put a moratorium on all dirty fossil fuel infrastructure. This includes proposed pipelines such as PennEast and those proposed to go through the Pinelands, as well as gas-fired power plants like the one proposed for the Meadowlands. In 2017, New Jersey generated 51% of its electricity from plants that burn coal, oil, or fracked gas. All of these plants must be phased out, and this plan must address how that will be done. The two remaining coal-fired power plants in New Jersey are the most carbon intense of sources and are also among the most expensive.

“The EMP should require all new generation capacity to be renewable and carbon-free. The DEP should promulgate rules that establish carbon pollution limits for all existing fossil-fueled power plants. These limits must be incorporated into renewals of Title V operating permits. The limits should decline over time and reach zero no later than 2050. The EMP should establish as state policy that nuclear generating units in NJ do not receive any state subsidies past their current license expiration dates, at the latest. Additionally, all nuclear units must be replaced by renewable energy no later than 2050. License expiration dates are 2036 for Salem 1, 2040 for Salem 2, and 2046 for Hope Creek which makes this very feasible.

“The BPU must move forward quickly with the solicitation for our first 1100 MW of offshore wind before the end of 2018. They then must adopt rules for financial mechanisms to implement these projects. These include defined criteria for approving projects that use a net-benefit analysis which includes health, climate and environmental impacts. Given that there are at least five companies who want to have offshore wind in New Jersey, the BPU should also consider creating a longer-term goal that goes beyond 3500 MW to 10 GW. This would generate more than half of New Jersey’s electricity from offshore wind but would still only represent about 10% of the gross generating potential off our coast. This plan should also consider optimizing the location of offshore wind to replace energy from existing dirty fossil fuel plants.

“New Jersey must also move quickly to prevent a crash in our solar Renewable Energy Credit market which could happen a year from now. We can fix this by developing a new, more cost-effective solar program similar to ones that are working in other states such as Massachusetts. The cost-cap on renewable energy sources must be removed or else we could be blocked from reaching our RPS target in 2020. This is especially true for solar power. We are concerned that we’ll never reach the goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050 without a strong, more sustainable solar program, including community solar and expanded net metering.

“We can also expand our community solar program, which is important for our environment and economy because it allows any ratepayer to subscribe to an off-site solar installation. Currently, a majority of residents in New Jersey cannot go solar because they rent, or because their property is not suitable, so community solar greatly expands access. We ideally want at least 20% set aside for community solar in New Jersey and for the state to remove the size cap it has for these community projects to allow for larger projects that can extend to whole neighborhoods and even towns. We also need to remove the cap on the size of the systems themselves. We hope to expand beyond 50 MW a year to at least 100 MW a year as well and ideally 150 MW a year.

“We should be targeting renewable energy and green jobs to environmental justice and low-income communities. This is because they need it the most. People in the suburbs are putting their own solar panels on their homes. We need to use these funds to help urban communities by putting panels on brownfields and rooftops. There are five times as many jobs in the solar sector than there is in the coal industry. These are people who will continue to be disproportionately affected by climate change and therefore should directly benefit from investments in clean energy.

“New Jersey has been impacted by climate change more than many other states. We’re seeing disruptions in seasons, worse air pollution including ground level ozone, and more severe storms like Hurricane Sandy. With the Trump Administration’s hostility to climate action and embrace of fossil fuels, it’s more important than ever that New Jersey becomes a leader on clean energy and builds a green economy. But, no matter how good the plan is, without implementation it’s only a hallucination. That is why we need to move forward with changing laws and implementing regulations and standards to make clean energy a reality in New Jersey.”

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