The importance of moving toward a decarbonized world in the face of climate change and political events that are putting energy availability into question was driven home today at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s Second Annual Energy Conference, held in Monroe Township.
Dr. Zenon Christodoulou, the newest commissioner of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU), said that besides energy sustainability and affordability, we should be concerned with energy availability. He pointed to union strikes in France that have shut down gasoline stations and reduced nuclear energy production as an example. Discussing Germany, Dr. Christodoulou said that country’s strategy in facing a cold winter due to Russia cutting natural gas supplies is to “knit more sweaters.”
Regarding the US, Dr. Christodoulou said, “We are relying on people we should never be doing business with. It makes no sense for us to fuel our enemies who are only looking to take us down. It is hubris to believe that we will not face increasing energy challenges in the future. The stakes are too high, and we must take bold action now.”
Investments in clean, renewable energy sources are important to combat the availability issue. “Of course, these solutions are not costless … nothing ever is,” Dr. Christodoulou said. “But if we expect electrons to keep flowing, we must move forward together and fast. We need to invest in clean renewable sources of energy that will transport us from place to place, heat our buildings, connect teachers with students, and provide for life-sustaining medical equipment.”
Stacy Peterson, NJBPU deputy executive director, spotlighted how the agency and the Murphy administration are already investing in clean energy initiatives.
Saying that offshore wind is one of the cornerstones of the state’s clean energy initiatives, Peterson pointed to the governor expanding the state’s offshore wind goal last month by nearly 50%, from 7,500 MW to 11,000 MW by 2040. “This is the highest goal of any state in the nation,” Peterson said.
The benefit of wind energy is not just environmental, but economic as well, Peterson continued. She said 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.
She also discussed the recent creation of the Clean Buildings Working Group, a collaboration between the Governor’s Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy (OCAGE) and the NJBPU that will serve as a cross-sector collaborative of stakeholders and experts that is expected to inform on pathways to greener, cleaner buildings in the state.
Ray Cantor, NJBIA deputy chief Government Affairs officer, said the state needs to decarbonize the economy, but commented that its current path does not hold all the answers. He said the goal of the NJBIA Energy Conference was for the industry experts gathered to provide some answers on what energy decarbonization solutions will be developed over the next few years.
“Maybe it will be carbon capture, renewable natural gas, hydrogen, next generation nuclear, storage microgrids, wind and fusion. Hopefully, we will gain some more knowledge, some more understanding, and some policy direction where we could put the state on the right track,” Cantor said.
Whatever the solutions, NJBPU’s Dr. Christodoulou said the changes won’t be easy: “Techno-economic paradigm shifts never are. However, we have the ability to reshape the future in a way that we haven’t in generations. I encourage all of you to work together with Gov. Murphy, with the NJBPU, with the innovators and the business community to provide solutions. Together we will solve them. Our children and grandchildren will be proud of what we did. … We will be able to say, ‘We made a difference.’”
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