NJ’s largest energy company sets new climate goal

PSEG says it now wants ‘net-zero emissions’ 20 years earlier than previous plans
Credit: (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)
File photo: Salem nuclear plant in Lower Alloways Creek Township. PSEG projects that by 2030 all its power generation will be produced by carbon-free electricity, primarily from its fleet of nuclear power plants.

Public Service Enterprise Group is now setting its goal for achieving net-zero climate emissions by 2030, an ambitious target 20 years ahead of a previous goal set by New Jersey’s largest energy company.

The goal marks one of the first and most aggressive net-zero emission pledges set in the U.S. by a large utility and power generation company. “Net-zero” refers to the balance between greenhouse-gas emissions produced and those removed from the atmosphere.

PSEG’s targets include its utility, Public Service Electric & Gas, which provides gas to almost 2 million customers and electricity to another 2.1 million. It aims to achieve net-zero emissions for all its utility operations by 2030. By then, PSEG also projects that all its power generation will be produced by carbon-free electricity, primarily from its fleet of nuclear power plants.

Sometime this year, PSEG Power, an unregulated affiliate of PSEG, plans to divest its non-nuclear generation fleet, including 6,750 megawatts of power generated by fossil fuels. PSEG plans to retain its carbon-free nuclear generation fleet, much of which is receiving ratepayers’ subsidies of $300 million annually to maintain its economic viability.

READ: PSEG selling off its fossil-fuel power plants

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In addition, the company said it has a target of obtaining 7,500 MW of offshore-wind capacity to provide power to customers. The Murphy administration wants to build 7,500 MW of offshore wind off the coast of New Jersey by 2035.

In line with Biden

PSEG said its pivot to 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030 is in line with President Biden’s goal of decarbonizing the electric sector by 2035.

“We have been a climate leader for decades,’’ said Kristen Ludecke, vice president of federal affairs for PSEG, explaining why the company is stepping up its climate reduction goals.

“PSEG’s climate vision for 2030 exemplifies the strategy we intend to pursue over the next decade — driving out harmful greenhouse gas emissions where they occur,’’ said PSEG Chairman, President and CEO Ralph Izzo. “The federal goal of achieving a 100 percent carbon-free electricity supply is an ambitious one that will require technology innovation, new policy frameworks, and a commitment by businesses and consumers across the economy,’’

“Given that their carbon footprint is one of the cleanest in the country, I think it makes these goals as not as aggressive for the rest of the country’s utilities,’’ said Paul Patterson, an energy analyst at Glenrock Associates in New York.

The long-term strategy by PSEG has been to turn a company that once relied on its power-generating business to produce most of its profits into one that instead relies on its utility for most of its earnings, and building its green energy business. That reflects a downward trend in profits for energy generators in recent years.

Since 2005, PSEG Power has achieved a 60% reduction in its carbon dioxide emissions in a process that led to the shuttering of some of its dirtiest power plants, including all its coal-fired units.

Investment plans

PSE&G, the utility, has reduced greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 50% from 2005 levels, but to meet net-zero emission goals it plans to invest heavily, including in energy efficiency efforts in buildings and facilities and electrifying a large portion of its fleet over a 10-year period.

Looking ahead, roughly half of its five-year capital spending program of approximately $14 billion to $16 billion will go toward decarbonization, emission reduction, methane reduction and clean-energy transition, according to the company.

Ludecke acknowledged that reducing the utility’s greenhouse-gas emissions will probably be the most challenging aspect of achieving the 30% target.

To further advance economy-wide decarbonization, PSEG continues to advocate for federal climate measures, such as a National Clean Energy Standard and a federal production tax credit for existing nuclear power plants.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J) this past week introduced a bill that would give nuclear units a tax credit for producing electricity, a measure designed to help the economically challenged sector.

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