Saving Money and the Environment? Report Says it’s Possible in NJ
Shifting to sources of renewable energy to meet New Jersey’s environmental goals can be done without raising costs for consumers, says a new report, though that will take a much stronger commitment to energy efficiency.
ReThink Energy NJ and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation said the study shows there is a way for the state to cut its energy-sector carbon emissions in half by 2030, a marker on the way toward a 90 percent cut by 2050. Campaign director Tom Gilbert said the state doesn’t currently have a plan.
“The report that we are releasing today provides a pathway to a clean-energy future that is not only more achievable than most people think, but it’s affordable and it’s absolutely essential,” Gilbert said.
Around one-third of energy would come from renewable sources, if the plan was followed, up from 4 percent now.
It says the state could expect to generate 17 percent of its electricity from offshore wind by 2030, which would require hundreds of wind turbines.
Solar would provide 14 percent of power, up from 3 percent now. That could require panels on 18 percent of technically feasible rooftops, or 8 percent of all rooftops in the state, though it would take far less than that if more are installed on canopies over parking lots.
(Story continues below chart.)
That would provide the projected energy needed if the state also made annual gains in energy efficiency – which would also be needed in order for costs to remain level for consumers during the changeover.
“We can increase renewable energy. And this is key: We can increase it yet we can also save ratepayers money. That’s the data. Those are facts. It’s not fake news,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Somerset.
Currently, annual savings from energy efficiency are running at 0.6 percent. The plan calls for improving that to 2 percent a year.
California and Northeast states such as Rhode Island have achieved efficiency savings of 2 percent a year, so it’s doable for New Jersey, said Elena Krieger, co-author of the report and director of the clean energy program for PSE Healthy Energy.
“The easiest thing to replace would probably be light bulbs,” Krieger said. “One of the largest draws on electricity is sometimes old refrigerators. And so it is key for people to look at their refrigerators and the model, particularly if they keep an old one in the basement.”
It could also involve rebates and incentives, to encourage people to install things like smart thermostats and heat pump water heaters. And there’s a consumer education component, said Arjun Makhijani, a report co-author and president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research.
“General implementation requires some effort, but it doesn’t require a change in lifestyle,” Makhijani said.
Funding for such incentives could come from the Clean Energy Fund, Gilbert said. More than $1.5 billion has been diverted to the general state budget over the last 11 years. In that time period, $2.1 billion was spent from the fund on clean-energy programs.
"It's not about putting on a sweater and shivering in the cold. It's about taking advantage of the incredible improvements in technology and all of the efficiencies that are there and need to be adopted in people's homes," Gilbert said.