With eye on N.J. energy goals, PSE&G unveils $4B plan

Source: David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, October 1, 2018

New Jersey’s biggest utility has asked regulators to approve a “historic” package of energy programs worth more than $4 billion over six years, posing it as a prospective linchpin for the state’s clean-energy ambitions.

Energy efficiency would account for the biggest chunk of the costs, with almost $2.8 billion going to help residences, businesses and industry pay to install smart technologies and upgrades to heating, air conditioning, refrigerating, lighting, and other gas and electric systems.

Those respond in part to legislation signed by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in May that requires utilities to boost electricity efficiency by 2 percent and that of natural gas by 0.75 percent, while allowing them to recover the costs of doing so.

On a conference call yesterday morning, Public Service Electric and Gas Co. Chairman and CEO Ralph Izzo heralded the plans as a transformation of the traditional utility business model.

“The single most important mission for utilities such as ours will be to help customers use less energy,” said Izzo.

The plans would over time lower customers’ bills by $7.4 billion and drive investment for new technologies, he added.

“Taken together, the separate elements have the potential to disrupt the energy sector in New Jersey as well as the business model at all utilities,” he said.

PSE&G also wrote in its petition to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) that it was filing the plans in line with a decade-old law enacted in accordance with its membership in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a bloc the state is on its way to rejoining. One section of the 2007 law, cited by PSE&G, marks out energy efficiency and conservation as essential to the state’s RGGI commitments.

Alyana Alfaro, deputy press secretary for Murphy, said the governor’s office had been briefed on the proposal and linked it to the state’s ongoing work to formulate a new energy master plan.

“We look forward to working with our state’s utility companies and other energy providers as New Jersey moves toward a 100 percent clean-energy future by 2050,” she said.

Another program requested as part of the petition would seek to replace 2.2 million electric meters — about a third of which are already due for replacements — with smart versions, in order to improve grid reliability and speed up power restoration after storms.

A total of $180 million would go toward energy storage initiatives that help ease intermittency on the grid from solar generation and finance microgrids that can operate independently during outages, among other projects.

PSE&G’s plans would also catapult New Jersey toward the forefront of electric vehicle infrastructure.

The petition calls for a $261 million investment in EV infrastructure, with rebates for 37,000 Level 2 chargers at residences and incentives for 450 direct-current fast chargers along travel corridors.

The utility would seek to own the fast chargers, as well as Level 2 chargers built in multifamily units, said Dave Daly, PSE&G’s chief operating officer.

A $45 million innovation program would also replace about 100 public school buses with electric versions, with preference for lower-income districts.

The chargers built out under the plan would support 180,000 electric cars by 2025, said Daly, up from about 16,000 at present — though still short of the 300,000 goal set out by the state.

Pam Frank, chief executive of the EV coalition known as ChargEVC, said the proposal was consistent with a road map for increasing EV adoption released last year by the coalition, which includes nearly every major clean energy stakeholder in the state.

“We think it represents a very comprehensive approach to this market. I wouldn’t even say it’s aggressive, but I think it’s exactly what this market needs,” she said.