Op-Ed: Gov-elect NJ governor Murphy will finish what Christie wouldn’t to combat climate change – wind farms

Source: By Jeanne M. Fox, Newark Star-Ledger • Posted: Thursday, December 14, 2017

According to most scientific reports climate change is now a reality that is causing temperatures to climb, sea levels to rise, and storm patterns to shift with resulting impacts to infrastructure, homes and human health.

You don’t have to believe the reports. The series of hurricanes that swept through the Caribbean and the South were reminders of the devastation caused by superstorm Sandy five years ago. New Jersey’s 140 miles of coastal communities witnessed the effects of climate change first hand as it tore through and inundated coastal communities.

The impact on New Jersey’s economy was unprecedented. Statewide, nearly 345,000 homes were damaged or destroyed and nearly 400,000 businesses were impacted.  Over 2 million households in the state lost power.

New Jersey needs to once again be a leader in this fight for the future. Fortunately, we have in Gov.-elect Phil Murphy someone who believes the experts and the scientific facts – that climate change must be mitigated.

And Murphy knows he is facing one of the biggest challenges for New Jersey: Balancing the need for cleaner energy to slow down climate change, while satisfying the demand for affordable energy that sustains rather than dampens economic output.  

Electric generation accounts for approximately 20 percent of New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions, but supports 100 percent of New Jersey’s economic output.

New Jersey offers some of the best offshore wind resources along the east coast with approximately 344,000 acres under federal lease and available for development. It’s able to support more than 3,000 Megawatts of installed capacity, and feeds into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland (PJM) power pool as the largest and most competitive energy market in North America serving all or parts of 14 states.

On Aug. 19, 2010, Gov. Chris Christie signed into law the Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (OWEDA), a measure that calls for a minimum of 1,100 Megawatts of offshore wind off the coast of New Jersey, establishing a 20-year fixed price incentive in the form Offshore Wind Renewable Energy Credits (ORECs).  OWEDA sets a very clear standard — only offshore wind projects that are connected to New Jersey’s transmission system and can demonstrate a net economic benefit for New Jersey will be eligible to receive ratepayer funded incentives in the form of ORECs.

It is a standard that ensures every windmill counts for New Jersey ratepayers who are helping to finance the projects.

On Feb. 4, 2016, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued two “Commercial Leases for Wind Power on the Outer Continental Shelf Offshore New Jersey.

Unfortunately, seven years after the signing of 2010 OWEDA, the Christie administration’s Board of Public Utilities still has yet to fully implement the offshore wind program as required by that law. Murphy won’t wait. He has said he will make the wind program a top priority.

The use of renewable energy produced by New Jersey workers and facilities will create a stronger state economy and ensure that New Jersey communities share in both the economic and environmental benefits of wind.

Offshore wind, with zero carbon emissions, will help the state reduce greenhouse gases resulting from the reliance on fossil fuels, and will set New Jersey on a new path toward a clean energy future.

Jeanne M. Fox is co-chair of Gov.-elect Phil Murphy’s Energy and Environment Transition Team. She served as commissioner of state Board of Public Utilities from 2011-2014. Previously, Fox was BPU president, the EPA Region 2 administrator and the state DEP commissioner.