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New Jersey Can Build a Better Energy Future

The challenges of the past four years make it clear that our customers need an energy system that is not only reliable but also resilient to storms like Hurricane Sandy

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As a company with a strong partnership with the people of New Jersey for more than 100 years, we’re always focusing our energy today on how to meet tomorrow’s needs.

We recently put together a short paper discussing how our customers’ needs are evolving. I encourage you to read it and tell us what you think.

We don’t have a crystal ball, but we see quite clearly that the world around us is changing and we must change with it. Within the past few years we’ve been challenged by incredibly destructive storms like Sandy -- making it clear that our customers need an energy system that is not only reliable but also resilient to storms -- and that requires large, ongoing investments to modernize New Jersey’s infrastructure.

Our entire society is increasingly demanding cleaner energy and lower emissions because we’re all concerned about ensuring a healthy environment. New Jersey enjoys a cleaner energy profile than most states in large part because more than half of the Garden State’s electricity comes from emissions-free nuclear generation. Also, New Jersey has been a leader in the dramatic growth of solar energy. We must continue to invest in cleaner energy while keeping a close eye on the costs involved as well.

Moreover, our customers -- at all income levels -- want access to new, innovative technologies like solar and high-efficiency devices and appliances, providing them with more choices in line with today’s lifestyles and improving their ability to monitor and control their energy usage.

Nor have we forgotten for a second about energy affordability -- and the enduring importance of a system based on universal access and fairness, especially for those who have difficulty paying their bills.

Our challenge boils down to this: How can we meet these needs -- for enhanced reliability and resiliency, for cleaner energy, and for universal access to the advantages of newer technologies -- and at the same time, help our customers lower their bills?

Innovation is part of our nation’s DNA. So I believe that meeting this challenge isn’t the equivalent of squaring a circle -- a task beyond anyone’s ability. However, it does call for a new way of thinking -- with a much greater emphasis on energy efficiency to help our customers save money and improve the environment, even as we proceed step by step with building a more reliable and resilient system.

I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: The cheapest, cleanest kilowatt is the one you don’t use. Even if you don’t believe in climate change, you should like the way that energy efficiency can lower your bill.

In fact, energy efficiency can deliver similar benefits as solar or wind energy at a fraction of the cost. Yet while we set aggressive goals for renewables, we have only taken baby steps in the area of energy efficiency.

The utility model has been very effective in bringing universal access to gas, electricity, and water. The utility has the relationships and infrastructure to reach its customers. While there is much talk that people want to go it alone and be energy independent, increasingly our society is moving in the opposite direction. The sharing economy is on the rise with people turning to companies like Uber and Airbnb to create networks to meet their needs. The utility provides a ready-made network to efficiently deliver on the four expectations of today’s energy consumer: resiliency, clean energy, universal access to new technologies, and affordability.

With the right incentives, the utility of tomorrow can similarly play a critical role in ensuring universal access to a range of newer, cleaner energy options -- from thermostats that promote energy efficiency to solar panels, batteries, and other devices and appliances.

New Jersey has a golden opportunity to create a powerful sustainability model based on universal access to more reliable, resilient, cleaner, and affordable energy -- fueling a growing economy, creating jobs, and doing this in ways that are increasingly in concert with the environment. It’s time to start building that model now on the path to a better energy future for everyone.

To download the thought piece on New Jersey’s energy future, click here.

Ralph Izzo is the chairman, president, and CEO of PSEG.

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