With ongoing renewable energy investments, infrastructure upgrades, and energy efficiency programs, South Jersey Industries (SJI) is a leader in the clean energy revolution. As it strives to make its operations carbon neutral, Steven Cocchi, senior vice president and chief financial officer of the Folsom-based energy company, says an energy mix is important in ensuring continued reliability of service to customers and communities as the state works to reduce carbon emissions.
Speaking at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association’s Energy Policy Conference this past Tuesday, Cocchi outlined numerous SJI initiatives, many of which are part of South Jersey Industry Utilities (SJIU), the entity that oversees South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas.
Among its goals, SJI has created a clean energy plan to achieve carbon neutral operations. “To get there, we laid out two benchmarks: 70% carbon reduction of operational emissions and consumption by 2030; and 100% carbon neutral operations by 2040,” Cocchi said, adding that the company is committing 25% of its annual capital expenditures to sustainability projects. “We are re-envisioning how we lead our employees, customers and communities to a better today and tomorrow,” Cocchi commented.
Among its most recent investments, SJIU, with support of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, expanded its energy efficiency program by more than $215 million. Under this three-year program, beginning in 2021, customers have had greater access to rebates and financing, home energy audits, and residential weatherization programs, all contributing to the reduction of carbon emissions in the home, according to Cocchi.
“Fully implemented, the program will help our customers save as much as $329 million in energy costs and more than 100 million therms of energy. This also equates to preventing more than 950,000 tons of CO2 from [being created] and entering the atmosphere,” Cocchi said.
“Infrastructure enhancements are a foundational approach in reducing methane emissions in the state,” according to Cocchi, who said SJI is replacing aging pipes to reduce “fugitive methane” leaks. It is also implementing new leak detection technologies. Through this, “we are able to satisfy carbon reduction goals while making our infrastructure more resilient,” Cocchi said, adding that SJI has replaced 1,000 miles of vintage pipelines in recent years.
SJI is also making investments in solar initiatives. This includes projects undertaken by its subsidiary, Marina Energy. Through SJI Energy Enterprises, SJI’s non-regulated, clean energy-focused subsidiary, the company acquired a 5.6 MW solar and 5.2 MW battery storage facility in Massachusetts. It also brought online a 7 MW solar array at a landfill in Florence Township that features 16,000 solar panels. Additionally, the company made investments in fuel cells with three projects in New York that will produce 12.5 MW of electricity.
Cocchi also discussed SJI’s ongoing investments in renewable natural gas and hydrogen.
Overall, he said that SJI is confident that its investments are wise and will continue to contribute to its customers and communities’ efforts to reduce their carbon footprints. “We are excited to be a leader in New Jersey in this regard,” Cocchi said.
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