NJ Deemed in Good Shape to Implement Administration’s Clean-Power Plan

Tom Johnson | July 13, 2015 | Energy & Environment
Report: State should have fewer problems than neighbors reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, thanks to limited coal-fired generation

PSE&G is building its largest grid-supply solar array at the site of the Kinsley landfill.
New Jersey may have an easier time than other states complying with mandates to curb emissions contributing to global climate change, according to an analysis by the operator of the nation’s largest electric grid.

The analysis by PJM Interconnection, first completed in March and updated last week, bases that projection largely on how electricity is made for consumption here: not much coal-fired generation and a heavy reliance on power produced by nuclear and natural-gas plants.

Those findings essentially reflect earlier studies and projections done by the Christie administration and the Rutgers Climate Institute, which found that the state is on track to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020. A law adopted during the Corzine administration aims to reduce such emissions by 80 percent from 2006 levels by 2050, a target that will be much harder to achieve.

The PJM analysis gave a state-by-state projection within its power grid of how difficult it will be to comply with a Clean Power Plan proposed by the Obama administration. The plan proposes steep reductions in pollution from power plants — generally the largest source of greenhouse-gas emissions.

[related]The fate of the Obama plan is uncertain since it is being challenged in the courts by a number of states and faces opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress. Critics say the initiative, if implemented, would boost electric bills for consumers and businesses and potentially impair the reliability of the power grid.

The state has not joined in litigation challenging the proposal, but the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection called the rule “incomplete, needlessly complex, and impossible to implement.’’

The PJM analysis described New Jersey as having the lowest proposed emissions rate within its power grid, which encompasses much of the Eastern Seaboard and stretches to Illinois.

New Jersey also is helped in meeting the goals set by the Clean Power Plan by having in place a fairly aggressive policy to promote cleaner ways of producing electricity, such as solar and wind, according to PJM. By 2020, 22.5 percent of the state’s electricity must come from renewable energy. Clean-energy advocates have been lobbying lawmakers to dramatically increase the state’s reliance on renewable energy, but that is unlikely to happen in the near future.

Another factor helping the state is that it will see fewer power plants retired in the next few years compared with neighbors, which rely on coal for their electricity.

In the short term, wholesale energy prices from power plants in New Jersey will be lower under the Obama plan, according to PJM. However, because power also is imported from other states, prices could increase by about 1 percent.