New Jersey is ready for 100% clean electricity and buildings

from New Jersey 2019 Energy Master Plan (EMP) presented the blueprint for how the state can achieve a 100% emission-free economy by 2050. It envisions a future where a home powered by 100% clean electricity keeps its occupants cool in the summer and warm in the winter using a cold climate heat pump. The one where the car in the garage is electric and charged by emission-free energy resources. However, one thing the EMP did not do was determine what the cost impact of the clean energy transition would be on customers’ energy bills.

That changed yesterday with the release of Final Report: Ratepayer Impact Study of the New Jersey Energy Master Plan. The study, commissioned by the NJ Board of Public Utilities, examined the economics of clean energy transition in New Jersey and found that not only the electrification of vehicles and buildings lessen total energy costs to customers, he found that the state can achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035 with little incremental cost increases.

Source: New Jersey Energy Master Plan 2019.

The main objective of the report was to find out how energy costs would be impacted in 2030 under three scenarios: (1) Business as usual; (2) achievement of EMP 2019 objectives; (3) go even faster than the PGE 2019 and achieve 100% clean electricity in 2035.

Overall, the report found that residents who embrace energy efficiency, electric vehicles and building electrification will see their costs drop compared to customers who stay on fossil fuels.

The report has four key findings

  • Average energy costs are expected to increase through 2030 for customers who do not participate in energy efficiency programs, adopt electric vehicles or switch to electric heating.
  • Customers who are able to adopt energy efficiency, electric vehicles and electric heating will have lower costs in 2030 than today, and 16% lower than residents who continue to use fuels fossil fuels to heat their homes and power their vehicles.
  • Achieving 100% clean electricity in 2035, instead of 2050, only increases additional costs by 2%.
  • New Jersey should prioritize ensuring that all of its residents, especially low- and moderate-income energy consumers, can participate in clean energy programs.

Where should NJ go from here?

First and foremost, New Jersey should update its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035. While that may seem difficult or ambitious, 60% of the electricity consumed in the State already comes from emission-free resources. By 2030, the 50% RPS target and the state’s nuclear fleet will mean that 85-90% of the state’s electricity will be clean. It only remains to know what to do after 2030.

Fortunately, this question is not difficult. The state already has a significant amount of solar and offshore wind power that will come on stream over the next decade. If the state were to continue on its current path and increase the RPS target by 3% per year through 2035, it would be enough to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2035. As the report states, the additional cost of moving from the current state policy to 100% by 2035 is only 2%. Considering the huge benefits to the climate, public health, and job creation in the state by accelerating the RPS, switching to 100% clean electricity is worth the extra investment.

Second, New Jersey needs to focus on equitable decarbonization of buildings. The burning of fossil fuels like methane (“natural”) gas, propane and fuel oil directly in New Jersey homes is responsible for more than 28% of New Jersey’s climate pollution, wreaking havoc on the environment and on the health of its inhabitants. Despite the best available science and state energy and climate policy, New Jersey has so far taken only a piecemeal approach to decarbonization. To meet its climate goals, the state must take bolder steps to decarbonize buildings and ensure that all residents, regardless of income or location, can participate in programs.

This will require both state and utility run electrification programs that offer significant incentives to cover the initial costs of highly efficient cold climate heat pumps while developing training programs, educational materials and networks of contractors to reduce costs. The Maine, New England and California programs provide effective models from which New Jersey can learn. Fortunately, the recently signed Inflation Reduction Act will make this effort more affordable, but not redundant, for New Jersey. Then New Jersey will need to quickly expand these programs to, as the report says, ensure that every New Jersey resident can share in a clean energy future.

Courtesy of NRDC.

By Eric Miller & Joe O’Brien – Applegate


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