The 138 page document has been released by the New Jersey Governor’s Office that is a master plan on energy for the state. This final version is largely the same as the draft document released last summer, save for a few changes. It lays out the direction for how the state will meet its energy demands over the next decade. The point that stands out is the goal for renewable energy, which has been lowered to 22.5 percent by 2021 as compared to the goal of 30 percent by the previous administration. The plan sets an overall goal of obtaining 70 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2050, which would include nuclear, natural gas, and hydroelectric.
The master plan contains five overarching goals that the state would pursue:
1. Lowering costs to all energy consumers
2. Encourage diversity of clean energy sources within the state
3. Reward energy efficiency and conservation, and reduce peak demand
4. Encourage investments in emerging technologies for transportation and power production
5. Continue to work towards the renewable energy goal of 22.5% by 2021
The Governor emphasized that continued use of coal, which is a major source of greenhouse gases, is no longer acceptable as a new source of power in the state. NJ will work to shut down the older, dirtier plants.
However, Christie also lists the challenges inherent with clean energy sources. Solar PV power is erratic and more costly than traditional sources. While the state has high-quality offshore wind sources, they too can be erratic and more expensive. Nuclear power is also carbon free, but has its own problems including expensive construction costs, nuclear waste, and safety concerns with the public.
New Jersey could import wind power from across state lines to meet their energy goal, but that would also raise concerns. For example, it would create more of a dependence to out-of-state sources, the same issues with reliability would be present, and new high voltage transmission lines would have to be sited.
On the horizon for the state is the closure of a major source of nuclear power in 2019, the 654 megawatt Oyster Creek plant. The governor gave no indication as to if the plant would be replaced. He stated that the construction of another nuclear plant within the decade is unlikely, but that NJ should definitely not abandon nuclear power altogether.
New Jersey faces many of the same challenges as other states in the northeast. It must balance affordable energy with the desire for more renewables and keeping energy jobs within the state.
The master plan is not without its detractors. Many Democrats and environmentalists are not satisfied, calling it shortsighted for its lower renewable energy goal. They also chafe at Governor Christie’s decision to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the regional trading system that provides funding for clean energy investments.
In all, the master plan lays out some very good ideas that are very agreeable. Time will tell if politics and economics interfere with making New Jersey’s energy master plan into a reality.
Article by David A Gabel, appearing courtesy Environmental News Network.