Op-Ed: Helping Utility Customers Save Money, Energy — and the Planet

Dave Daly | September 26, 2019 | Opinion
Because the cleanest, cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use, it’s smart to prioritize energy efficiency
Dave Daly

More and more Americans are recognizing the urgent need to confront the realities of climate change. Consumers are increasingly demanding that energy providers transition away from fossil fuels in favor of alternatives that pose no harm to the environment and public health.

Here in New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration set a goal of 100% clean energy by 2050. The state has already made significant progress by promoting carbon-free energy sources, such as renewables and nuclear power. Greater progress can be made by empowering utilities to invest in technologies that help the climate — such as energy efficiency, electric vehicles and energy storage.

PSE&G — the state’s oldest and largest utility — proposed a program that calls for significant investments in several approaches that would help New Jersey achieve its carbon-reduction goals. Each part of the proposal, which we’re calling Clean Energy Future, moves New Jersey closer to its ambitious clean-energy goals. These include:

  • EV charging: New Jersey has the opportunity to lead the nation in conversion to electric vehicles, but range anxiety is keeping too many commuters from ditching their gasoline-burning SUVs for more climate-friendly plug-ins. PSE&G’s proposal seeks to encourage the conversion to EVs by jump-starting the installation of 40,000 charging stations at homes, businesses and along travel corridors.
  • Smart meters: New Jersey is one of only a handful of states where smart meter technology has not been widely adopted. By providing smart meters to all 2.3 million of our electric customers, PSE&G can provide 1) even faster restoration times after severe weather, and 2) a communication network that empowers customers with real-time household energy use data they can use to save money and shrink their carbon footprint.
  • Energy storage: PSE&G wants to invest in battery storage systems that will help public agencies keep essential government services operating when extreme weather strikes. Development of storage technology also is seen as a critical missing link in the widespread adoption of renewable energy.

However, the most significant component of Clean Energy Future is energy efficiency, which would allow every type of customer we serve to reduce their energy consumption and their utility bills at the same time.

Reducing gas and electric use

Pending approval from the state Board of Public Utilities, our energy efficiency proposal is expected to provide PSE&G customers with access to energy savings opportunities from 22 programs, with an emphasis on hard-to-reach segments like low income, multi-family, small business and local government customers.

Our energy efficiency programs are closely aligned with state legislation that calls for New Jersey utilities to help customers reduce their electric and gas use. The programs also would work in concert with the goals and objectives currently under consideration for the state’s Energy Master Plan.

PSE&G’s proposal is estimated to almost quadruple New Jersey’s statewide electric energy-efficiency savings. It is also expected to help spur the New Jersey economy by creating thousands of jobs and helping make existing New Jersey businesses more cost-competitive. In addition, it is estimated to reduce the state’s carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 24 million tons.

Allowing utilities to take the lead in providing energy efficiency programs is a proven strategy. New Jersey currently ranks No. 29 among states for energy efficiency savings, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. Other states are saving six times the energy as New Jersey. In those states, utilities have been empowered to take the lead in energy efficiency programs.

PSE&G already has a proven track record of helping customers use less energy — the award-winning programs the utility has in place today have helped improve energy efficiency at dozens of hospitals, hundreds of residential multifamily buildings and thousands of small businesses, government facilities and nonprofits.

Access for all

Providing universal access to energy efficiency also is a natural extension of our mandate to provide every customer with access to electricity and natural gas, regardless of geography or income.

It may seem odd that a utility would want to encourage its customers to use less of its product. But we believe it is our obligation to provide all of our customers with access to programs that would help them save both money and energy.

The cleanest, cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use. That is why we want energy efficiency to be the foundation of New Jersey’s clean-energy efforts.