Aggressive Program to Electrify NJ Transportation Ready to Launch Today

Governor’s signing of legislation will represent huge win for clean energy advocates
Credit: Stan Petersen/Pixabay
The bill includes incentives to convince motorists who drive light-duty vehicles to switch to zero-emission cars or electric cars.

Gov. Phil Murphy is expected today to sign a bill viewed as one of the most comprehensive programs any state in the nation has put in place to electrify its transportation system.

The legislation (S-2252/A-4819), easily passed by both houses this past Monday, marks the biggest step New Jersey has taken to reduce emissions causing climate change, a crucial vulnerability for a state with a long coastline.

The signing of the bill is a huge victory for clean energy advocates, who waged a long struggle to get the measure through the Legislature. The transportation sector is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions contributing to climate change, accounting for roughly 42% of such pollution.

In the past, New Jersey has fallen behind many other states in the region in the switch to cleaner running cars, which it needs to do after opting to adopt a California program to put more zero-emission cars on its roads.

Under that program, New Jersey needs to put 330,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2025. It rises to 2 million in another 10 years and 85% of all light-duty vehicles by 2040.

Incentives to switch

The legislation includes incentives — largely funded by ratepayers — to convince motorists who drive light-duty vehicles to switch to zero-emission cars or electric cars. It also includes provisions ramping up New Jersey Transit’s efforts to convert its diesel buses to electric buses in 12 years.

Those incentives aim to address two of the biggest barriers to a switch to electric vehicles by consumers: concerns about electric vehicles’ higher costs than conventional light-duty cars and anxiety among drivers that their cars would run out of power before finding a place to recharge.

For ratepayers, the legislation will add another $300 million onto their monthly bills over the next decade to provide generous rebates of up to $5,000 to consumers who choose to purchase electric vehicles. Utility customers could face higher costs depending how big a role electric utilities play in building out the charging infrastructure in New Jersey.

Those additional costs sparked some opposition to the bill, largely because homeowners and businesses already are being hit with new charges to move the state to its goal of 100% clean energy by midcentury. Those costs involve $300 million a year to prevent nuclear power plants from closing, and still to be determined costs to build offshore wind farms to provide about half of New Jersey’s electricity, and to develop a robust program for solar energy.

But many business executives urged the governor to sign the bill, including about a dozen companies with significant operations in the state, such as Siemens, BMW, Hackensack Meridian, and DSM.

“Transitioning to a clean transportation system will not only improve the health and prosperity of all New Jerseyans, it also presents a forward-looking investment opportunity that could make the Garden State a hub for future economic activity,’’ said Jeff Perkins, executive director of Friends Fiduciary.

Clean energy advocates agreed. “With this, New Jersey will accelerate and catch up with other states and may pass them,’’ said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. “The important part to us is requiring NJ Transit to transition to electric buses.’’