In New Jersey, a major issue of the first four years of the Christie administration has been a concerted effort to develop more power generation, which state officials say could help lower the cost of electricity, which ranks among the sixth-highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That effort has been met with limited success, however, facing extensive litigation from incumbent power suppliers.
(A federal court decision released late week dismissed New Jersey's arguments that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission erred in ruling against state efforts to promote new generation.)
So who provides much of the electricity to keep the lights on for businesses and homeowners -- at least in state?
For a large part, it is PSEG Power, a subsidiary of the Newark-based Public Service Enterprise Group. Seven of its power plants rank among the top ten generators of electricity in the state. Nuclear generation accounts for the bulk, according to the EIA’s latest statistics, supplying more than half of New Jersey's power.
And with the price of natural gas pushed down by the discovery of new deposits in Pennsylvania and other states, natural-gas-fired plants are playing a bigger part in providing electricity, including two coal-fired plants operated by PSEG Power that now run more often on the cheaper fuel.
Meanwhile, efforts to develop so-called combined heat and power (CHP) plants -- facilities that produce both electricity and heat and can lower energy costs -- have fallen short of the targets set out by the new Energy Master Plan adopted by the Christie administration.
Here are the 10 largest power plants in New Jersey, according to the EIA’s most recent data, which does not include recent upgrades to the plants to increase their capacity. By and large, however, the rankings do not change:
The plant actually includes two units producing nuclear power in Salem County, generating more than 2,370 megawatts, according to the EIA, although steps taken by the company have boosted those numbers. One megawatt is enough to provide power to between 800 and 1,000 homes. In the case of the Salem units, they provide enough to power approximately 2 million homes a day.
The natural-gas-fired plant is a 1,587-megawatt facility, but like PSEG's nuclear generating stations, it too has been upgraded to deliver more capacity in recent years. The fall in natural-gas prices means it runs on that fuel more frequently.
Like the Linden plant, the natural-gas unit in Ridgefield also has benefitted from the steep drop in prices for the fossil fuel. According to the EIA, it is capable of producing 1,199 megawatts of electricity during the summer, but it here again company upgrades mean that it can produce additional capacity.
Located on the same 740-acre site in Salem County as the two Salem units, this trio of power plants represents the second-largest nuclear generating facility in the United States. With a capacity of 1,219 megawatts, it provides enough power to supply about 1 million homes per day.
The Jersey City plant is one of two units operated by PSEG Fossil, another subsidiary that is built to run primarily on coal. But when it runs these days, it is most often fueled by natural gas. The federal agency says it has a 930-megawatt, much larger than the 620 megawatts listed on the company’s own web site. The difference is accounted for by the retirement of a second generating unit at Hudson since EIA compiled its data.
A privately held plant that can produce both electricity and heat from natural gas, the Cogen facility was established in 2006 and is a familiar site to motorists driving on the New Jersey Turnpike. It has a capacity of 897 megawatts, according to the EIA, which might make it larger than the Hudson generating station, depending on which numbers are accurate.
The Sayreville natural gas plant is capable of producing 766 megawatts of electricity, according to the federal agency, although it too has increased its capacity since the data was released.
It is similar to the Hudson unit in that it’s a facility where the company invested big bucks to comply with tougher environmental standards for coal-fired units, but new the plant mostly runs on natural gas these days.
The Newark gas-fired facility has a capacity of 617 megawatts. It went online in 1971, but the company added another unit in 1990.
The nation’s oldest running commercial nuclear station -- it began operating in 1969 -- Oyster Creek is scheduled to shut down at the end of 2019 under an agreement between the state Department of Environmental Protection and Exelon Nuclear, which operates the 615-megawatt facility. Its closure could add stress to the power grid serving locations along the Jersey Shore.