First Public Hearing on State Energy Master Plan Scheduled for Tomorrow

Tom Johnson | August 10, 2015 | Energy & Environment
Making state plan mesh better with Obama proposal to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions likely to be on agenda

solar farms on farmland solar arrays
The state is kicking off hearings this week on what needs to be changed in New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan. One likely focus, at least for some, will be how will be how well it meshes with the Obama administration proposal to deal with global climate change.

The state plan, adopted in 2011, is the Christie administration’s blueprint for ensuring New Jersey has enough energy to meet demand of residents and businesses, as well as trying to lower electric and heating bills.

To some extent, the state is making good progress in achieving those goals — at least according to an in-house analysis by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. But some clean-energy advocates criticize the EMP for not doing enough to promote renewable energy, such as solar and wind, and for relying too heavily on fossil fuels to meet demand.

The first in a series of three public hearings will be held tomorrow in Newark at the Seton Hall Law School from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

With the release of the Obama Clean Power Plan a week ago, there are likely to be renewed calls to ramp up the use of renewables as some in the Legislature have urged. The federal plan mandates a steep reduction in emissions from power plants that contribute to global climate change, a goal that only can be achieved by increased reliance on nonpolluting technologies such as solar and wind, clean-energy proponents say.

[related]The current Energy Master Plan calls for 22.5 percent of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. According to the BPU, nearly 15 percent of electricity is already coming from those technologies.

In some aspects, the state energy master plan reflects recommendations in the Clean Power Plan, particularly less reliance on electricity generated by coal-fired power plants, the biggest source of greenhouse emissions in the power sector. New Jersey has only three coal plants and the Christie administration has vowed not to allow any future ones.

A priority at the hearing for the BPU is exploring how to enhance the reliability of the power grid, which has suffered from a series of widespread outages across the state in recent years, the most recent occurring in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Among other things, the agency is looking at how it can improve resiliency by increasing distributed generation resources to produce power locally and developing a long-term financing plan to fund such projects.