MICHELE S. BYERS / NJ CONSERVATION FOUNDATION – Clean energy like solar and wind got a huge boost last week with the passage of a new clean energy bill.
The clean energy bill was passed by the state Senate and Assembly in Trenton. Once Governor Phil Murphy signs it into law, this state we’re in will join New York and California in leading the nation in clean energy. The bill will also put New Jersey on the path to meet the Governor’s goal of 100 percent clean energy by 2050.
Today, New Jersey only gets 15 percent of its energy from clean, renewable sources. The new bill requires New Jersey utilities to get 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. By replacing a good portion of our natural gas with renewables, New Jersey can reduce emissions by at least 11 million tons of carbon dioxide — equivalent to taking more than 2.4 million gasoline-powered cars off the road in 2030 and every year thereafter.
The bill will encourage demand for clean, efficient, renewable energy and provide new targets and incentives for onshore wind, solar, battery storage and offshore wind. The target of 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind would make New Jersey a national leader in wind energy. According to an earlier feasibility study of offshore wind for New Jersey, 3,500 megawatts would power over a million average New Jersey homes.
And clean energy enjoys strong public support! According to a recent Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll conducted for ReThink Energy NJ, three out of four New Jersey voters agree that the state should invest in renewable energy, rather than in fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. And nearly 90 percent say clean energy is important to the overall health of New Jersey.
Increasing energy efficiency is also critical, since the cleanest energy is the energy we don’t use.
Energy efficiency programs under the new bill will cut emissions from the power sector by approximately 350,000 metric tons per year, the equivalent of removing the emissions from approximately 75,000 cars.
And energy efficiency programs will save consumers approximately $200 million every year and add tens of thousands of new jobs for New Jersey workers. These jobs include electricians, plumbers and building contractors working to upgrade lighting, windows, heating and air-conditioning systems across New Jersey.
The new clean energy bill will also create a “community solar” program so that customers – including those who live in low-income and multi-family homes – will have access to solar energy for the first time.
Building a clean energy economy is the right thing for New Jersey’s future. As a coastal state, we’re incredibly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change: rising sea levels, flooding and more frequent and powerful storms.
Moving to clean, renewable energy will demonstrate that economic and environmental health go hand in hand, and that a thriving economy can be built on clean energy instead of fossil fuels.
Michele S. Byers is executive director of the NJ Conservation Foundation.