Op-Ed: Office of Clean Energy Equity Will Ensure Jobs and Savings Reach All Communities in NJ

Charles F. Boyer | July 30, 2020 | Opinion
Legislation would provide clean-energy workforce development training to state’s historically underserved low- and moderate-income residents
Charles F. Boyer

In these difficult times, New Jersey’s inclusive clean-energy agenda offers residents a much-needed glimmer of hope for the future. The leadership our state has shown in energy efficiency and clean energy this year can bring new jobs and financial gains to New Jersey, particularly our urban centers, and help us recover from the economic and public health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To truly strengthen our state, New Jersey’s leaders recognize that a clean-energy future must prioritize our most vulnerable citizens. Urban and low- and moderate-income communities are more likely to experience negative health consequences from air pollution, like asthma and respiratory complications, and spend a higher percentage of their income on energy bills than wealthier households. Cities have been historically overlooked by past leadership, and often lack the opportunities and funding to really benefit from energy efficiency and electric-vehicle initiatives that can improve air quality and reduce energy bills.

Thankfully, since equity is a pinnacle of New Jersey’s clean-energy plan, state lawmakers are currently working to approve the NJ Clean Energy Equity Act (S-2484), which pledges to create an Office of Clean Energy Equity. Spearheaded by Sens. Troy Singleton and Ronald Rice, the legislation directs this office to oversee the deployment of energy-efficiency programs and energy-storage technologies in historically underserved communities. Even better, the Office of Clean Energy Equity would integrate clean-energy workforce development training, create outreach and recruitment campaigns for these training programs, and ensure they receive adequate funding.

Keeping efforts community-centric

Most importantly, the Office of Clean Energy Equity would work to empower the communities it serves in all initiatives. To guarantee efforts are community-centric, the office would establish an advisory board consisting of representatives from historically underserved areas to evaluate the effectiveness of clean-energy programs and fulfill any unmet needs. New Jersey state leadership recognizes that for our clean-energy future plans to benefit everyone, we must give all communities a seat at the table.

New Jersey is already making big strides in energy efficiency that can create jobs and save money, with an emphasis on our low- and moderate-income residents. Together with our utilities and the Office of Clean Energy Equity, we can make sure these jobs and savings reach all our communities.