Package of Three NJ Bills Ratchets Up State’s Renewable-Energy Goals

Source: By Tom Johnson, NJ Spotlight • Posted: Thursday, October 19, 2017

Earlier this month, a package of three bills to overhaul the state’s energy policies was quietly introduced in the Senate.

If adopted, the legislation would require 100 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2050. Another bill would set a target of having 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030. The third measure would require power suppliers to achieve aggressive goals for storing energy.

The legislation go far beyond existing state goals in promoting clean energy, or even proposals now pending before lawmakers. Most certainly, there is little chance of it being enacted before next year, if only because the bills reflect precisely the environmental platform of Phil Murphy, the Democratic candidate for governor.

At the same time, Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), the chairman of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee, has drafted a package of 18 bills to promote energy efficiency and solar power, and encourage the use of electric vehicles through various incentives.

Prepping for new governor

The flurry around clean-energy measures reflects frustration of proponents who have been trying to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels, and increase the use of renewables. Smith and others concede the bills are unlikely to become law before a new governor is inaugurated, but they want to move quickly when one takes office.

For the past few years, clean-energy advocates have been pressing the Legislature to ramp up New Jersey’s dependence on renewable energy by requiring 80 percent of the state’s electricity to come from such sources by 2050.

After passing the Senate, however, the bill (S-1707) has languished in an Assembly committee for the last 17 months, a wait that has seen other states move forward with similar mandates to ramp up use of renewable energy.

Less enthusiastic

But not everyone is in a rush to adopt such aggressive goals. The 80 percent renewable bill passed the Senate 23-15. Many business lobbyists worry such a reliance on renewable energy will boost electric bills here in the state, which already has some of the nation’s highest energy costs.

The same concerns helped torpedo a goal of having 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind capacity developed along the Jersey coast. While two developers are pursuing plans to build wind farms off the coast, they are unlikely to be operational until the middle of the next decade.

Nevertheless. Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) introduced a bill (S-3432) to establish a target of having 3,500 megawatts of capacity operational by 2030. Codey did not return a call for comment on his bills.

Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey and a vocal proponent of offshore wind, argued the goal is realistic. “We have the most potential offshore wind resources in the nation,’’ he said. “And we reach 100 percent renewables, if we get serious about it.’’

The third bill

Besides the 100 percent renewable goal by 2050, the third bill in the package calls for power suppliers to develop and deploy up to 600 megawatts of energy storage capacity by 2021 and 2,000 megawatts of capacity by 2030. Energy storage is viewed as crucial to achieving renewable energy goals because both solar and wind are intermittent sources of energy.

“To us, this is something we’ve been looking for for years,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the Sierra Club of New Jersey, referring to Codey’s bill. “It’s great for someone who cares about climate change.’’