NJ Continues Its Green Energy Journey

Key energy stakeholders are outlining robust initiatives with the goal of increasing sustainability.

You can’t talk about energy in the Garden State without discussing sustainability and the state’s ambitious Energy Master Plan (EMP), which Gov. Phil Murphy officially outlined in January 2020. The EMP sets forth a strategic vision for the production, distribution, consumption and conservation of energy in New Jersey, all with the goal of achieving 100% clean energy by 2050.

The vision and goal serves as a guiding light for the various entities that make up the state’s energy sector.

“In keeping with New Jersey’s rich history of innovation, our state is leading the nation in the drive to clean energy,” Chris Hoenig, spokesman for Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) tells New Jersey Business Magazine.

A huge part of that drive is offshore wind, an area where the Murphy administration is particularly bullish. This past September, Murphy raised the state’s existing offshore wind energy development goal by 50%, from 7,500 MW by 2035, to 11,000 MW by 2040.

“There is always more that we can do to make New Jersey more sustainable while further advancing the state’s economic vitality,” Murphy said of the goal increase. “This is an aggressive target, but it is an achievable one.”

Several offshore wind projects have been approved to be built over the next decade in the state, including Ørsted and PSEG’s Ocean Wind projects and Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind.

Last month, The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) awarded JCP&L with the construction responsibility to connect clean energy generated by New Jersey’s offshore wind farms to the power grid.

Through the project, power from offshore wind farms in central New Jersey will be delivered onshore to a collection point in Monmouth County. The electricity then will be converted from direct current (DC) to the alternating current (AC) power that flows through the grid, and enter JCP&L’s transmission system at the company’s Larrabee, Atlantic and Smithburg substations, all located in Monmouth County.

In addition to construction of new JCP&L transmission infrastructure to support the project, the award also includes additional upgrades to existing transmission equipment by JCP&L and other electric utilities to help support the additional electricity.

According to Stacy Peterson, BPU deputy executive director, the benefit of wind energy is not just environmental, but economic as well.

She says the New Jersey Wind Port in Lower Alloways Creek is expected to produce $500 million in economic activity, while $250 million is being invested to create a state-of-the-art turbine monopile manufacturing facility that will create more than 500 high-paying jobs.

“All of this will establish New Jersey as the East Coast hub of the US offshore wind industry,” Peterson said at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s second annual Energy Conference earlier this year.

Other utility companies in the state, such as PSE&G and Atlantic City Electric, have also outlined robust sustainability initiatives in an effort to meet the state’s energy goals.

Michael Schmid, PSE&G vice president of asset management and centralized services, points to the expected surge in electric vehicle (EV) adoption, which would be a game-changer for electric utilities like PSE&G.

“We estimate there could be 600,000 EVs charging in our service area by the end of the decade, and meeting that demand reliably will require significant investments in our system,” Schmid says. “Much of that work will be what we refer to as ‘last mile’ improvements – upgrading the infrastructure that serves residential customers.”

After receiving BPU approval last year to invest $166 million for building out New Jersey’s EV charging infrastructure, PSE&G launched its Clean Energy Future – Electric Vehicle Charging Program, which is designed to support the deployment of EV chargers for a range of customers, including residential, mixed-use, and public DC fast charging – which helps position New Jersey to become a front-runner in transportation electrification.

Meanwhile, Atlantic City Electric (ACE) recently announced its “Powering the Future” proposal, which the company filed with the BPU last month. In it, ACE outlined 80 interrelated projects that are essential to expanding the local energy grid’s ability to support the interconnection of more solar and other clean energy technologies, improve system reliability, and leverage more modern technologies to help make the grid stronger and more resilient against increasingly impactful storms.

“We are leading the energy transformation across South Jersey, and these 80 projects are central to that effort,” says Tamla Olivier, senior vice president and COO of Pepco Holdings, which includes ACE. “Powering the Future will broaden the ability for customers to interconnect their solar with the local energy grid while fortifying the grid and addressing specific pockets in our communities where the reliability of service is not meeting our expectations. This work is essential, and we will execute it while keeping bills as low as possible and helping every customer meet their energy needs.”

The future of energy in the state will be charted by continued technological advancement in the sector.

This includes facilities such as Exxon Mobil Corporation’s Global Technology Center in Clinton, which has been the company’s center of fundamental research and science innovation since 1985. At the Clinton location, nearly 700 scientists, engineers and technicians are working to develop the next generation of scalable, lower emission energy solutions.

In addition to technology, the future will also be determined by collaboration.

“There is a misconception that electrification is the only path to net zero,” says Andrew Sinclair, manager of public & government affairs at Exxon Mobil Corporation. “From our perspective, based on projected global demand, the world needs a diverse mix of energy sources that are available, affordable and reliable.”

He cites two examples, including intermittent sources of power generation such as solar and wind requiring a backup fuel like natural gas with carbon capture and storage, or hydrogen. Additionally, in the transportation sector, Sinclair says he does not foresee a viable alternative to low emission fuels for large merchant marine vessels, long-distance heavy trucking and commercial aviation in the coming decades.

“The fact is we need to work together to solve the climate challenge; it’s not an either-or choice. At ExxonMobil, we are bringing to bear our core capabilities to address the risks of climate change,” Sinclair adds.

“Nobody is flipping off the switch on natural gas tomorrow,” says New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette. “We need carbon-based fuels in order to power our economy. That reality exists notwithstanding the urgency of the clean energy movement.

“I firmly believe that we do not have to punish ourselves and punish our economy on the way to [achieving our goals],” LaTourette continues. “We can unite the forces of economic development and environmental improvement to promote the public good.”

According to Ray Cantor, NJBIA deputy chief government affairs officer, reliability and affordability need to be the guardrails of our energy policies.

“As we move toward a cleaner energy future, I hope our policy makers understand the importance of both reliability and affordability to our economy and our citizens.”

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