New Jersey Energy Plan Includes Ambitious Renewable Energy Goal

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling, always looking to forward the cleantech revolution discussion, is proud to bring you this new story via a cross post from partner AOL Energy. Author credit goes to Jon Hurdle.
New Jersey released the final version of a plan designed to develop new sources of clean energy and boosting the use of renewables to meet an ambitious statewide goal.
Republican governor Chris Christie’s Energy Master Plan aims to have 22.5% of the state’s energy coming from renewable sources by 2021, and says it could reach a renewable portfolio standard of 70% by 2050 if the definition of clean energy was broadened to include nuclear, natural gas and hydroelectric. For a copy of the plan, see here.

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But the plan, the first draft of which was released in June, says the state should not be tied to rigid formulas as a means of achieving the renewable energy goal.

“Mid-course corrections that foster RPS objectives should safeguard New Jersey’s pocketbook while encouraging the environmental, economic and reliability benefits associated with green technology and demand-side initiatives,” the report says.

Amid tightening federal restrictions on coal-fired power generation, the New Jersey report also said the state will not add coal power to its energy mix.

Coal is a major source of CO2 emissions and will no longer be accepted as a new source of power in the state,” the report says. “New Jersey will work to shut down older, dirtier peaker and intermediate plants with high greenhouse gas emissions.”

It also expresses doubts about the viability of offshore wind, amid plans for offshore wind development, and the proposed Atlantic Wind Connection, a undersea grid that would link wind farms with the shore of New Jersey and other northeastern states.

Although New Jersey has plentiful wind resources, they are expensive and intermittent, and so should only be considered as part of the state’s energy future, along with “other conventional or innovative technologies” to ensure grid security.

On nuclear power, the report considers the scheduled retirement of the state’s Oyster Creek plant in 2019, saying the shutdown will represent the removal of a carbon-free source of base load power.

While the meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant calls for “redoubled vigilance” over nuclear safety, New Jersey should continue to assess the role of nuclear power in the state’s energy future, and will work with the U.S. Department of Energy to find ways of safely disposing of nuclear waste, the report says.

To cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on oil, the state should also boost the use of natural gas for power generation, and should expand its natural gas pipeline network, the report says.

Earlier this year, Christie imposed a one-year moratorium on the controversial natural gas extraction process of “fracking”, saying more time was needed to study its safety, but vetoed a bill that would have permanently banned the practice in New Jersey.

The plan will result in subsidizing natural gas- and coal-fired power from other states, Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said. Further, the RPS represents a significant decline in the 30% target set by the previous administration of Democratic Governor Jon Corzine, Tittel said.

“This plan is still about PR over public policy,” Tittel said. “It’s more about trying to look good than being good.”

The plan also seeks to boost the state’s solar industry – one of the biggest in the U.S. – by creating incentives for Wall Street to invest in solar renewable energy certificates, whose market price has recently dropped to between $160 and $200 from the $650 – $690 range a year ago.

The “SREC” price has dropped because of New Jersey’s surge in non-residential solar installations – the most numerous of any state – resulting in a glut of the tradable certificates, said Greg Reinert, a spokesman for the Board of Public Utilities.

In an attempt to boost the price of SRECs, the energy plan proposes to accelerate the solar-energy requirement for power suppliers.

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