State Takes Pass on Energy-Efficiency Petition Filed by Sierra Club

BPU waiting on results of stakeholder meetings, says decision to define energy-efficiency portfolio premature

Credit: Amanda Brown
The BPU's Dianne Solomon.
The state has punted on a petition by a leading environmental organization to ramp up efforts to promote energy efficiency projects in New Jersey, a goal that would decrease energy consumption and save customers money.

In deferring action on a filing by the Sierra Club of New Jersey, the state Board of Public Utilities decided to await the results of stakeholder working groups set up by the agency on how best to curb energy use by both residents and businesses.

“I do not believe it’s a necessity to do it at present time,’’ said BPU President Diane Solomon, when the agency decided not to act on the petition at its monthly meeting in May.

The BPU staff made the recommendation.

Rachel Boylan, an attorney with the agency, noted that the staff is in the midst of discussions on how to determine and promote the best methods of energy efficiency.

“To do portfolio standards at this point would be premature because we don’t have all the facts as all the commissioners wanted,’’ Boylan said.

The Sierra Club had asked the BPU to establish an energy-efficiency portfolio, similar to the renewable energy portfolio standards that require suppliers to provide at least 22.5 percent of power from clean energy sources, such as solar and wind.

The environmental organization claimed that the state needs to ramp up efforts to promote energy efficiency, especially given the fact that recent reports have noted New Jersey is falling behind so-called peer states in delivering energy savings to customers, an argument not disputed by the BPU’s staff.

Twenty-six other states have established energy-efficiency portfolios. By most accounts, broad investments in energy efficiency projects are the best way to help lower energy bills for consumers and reduce pollution, as well as create well-paying jobs in the emerging green economy.

Some commissioners agreed, in part, with the BPU Sierra Club’s petition.

“Obviously, energy efficiency we all know is really absolutely essential for cutting down the cost of electricity and the cost and the need for more infrastructure and all that kind of stuff,’’ said BPU Commissioner Jeanne Fox. “And I really do think the board and Sierra Club are in agreement on that issue. The issue is how do get there?’’

The debate about energy efficiency comes at a time when the state’s clean energy fund has been repeatedly raided by the Christie administration and Democratic Legislature for money to plug holes in the state budget.

The issue has been pushed in the Legislature in this and past sessions but has not gained much traction.

Jeff Ttittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, argued the state’s efforts to reduce energy consumption fail to achieve the same results of neighboring states.

“They all say they support this, but then nothing happens,’’ he said. “How long are we going to lag behind? The board really does not want to do anything.’’

At one point, the state wanted to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020, but that goal has been reduced by the Christie administration.