Article

State sets aggressive clean-energy goal

The state yesterday directed electric utility companies to gradually increase their purchases of electricity from renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind power, a move that could lead to modest increases in bills at a time when consumers already are facing steep increases in energy costs.

One percent of the electricity used today in New Jersey is produced from renewable energy sources, but the utilities are re quired to boost that percentage to 20 percent by 2020 -- one of the most aggressive in the nation for promoting cleaner energy. By 2008, 4 percent must come from renewable sources and the standard increases incrementally on an annual basis through 2020.

Proponents of the rule said the higher costs of solar and wind power are more than outweighed by the benefits of reducing air pollution and providing fuel diversity. The increased demand for alternative energy supplies also could create as many as 1,200 jobs, Board of Public Utilities President Jeanne Fox said.

"It's a significant step forward for New Jersey," Fox said. "'If there is an impact on rates, it will, in my opinion, be minimal."

The state commissioned a study by Rutgers University's Center for Energy, Economics and Environment, which estimated using more renewable energy sources would boost electric bills for the average household $5 a year by 2008 and $18 annually by 2020. That study, however, was completed two years ago, before the steep run-up in natural gas and oil prices.

In... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
One percent of the electricity used today in New Jersey is produced from renewable energy sources, but the utilities are re quired to boost that percentage to 20 percent by 2020 -- one of the most aggressive in the nation for promoting cleaner energy. By 2008, 4 percent must come from renewable sources and the standard increases incrementally on an annual basis through 2020.

Proponents of the rule said the higher costs of solar and wind power are more than outweighed by the benefits of reducing air pollution and providing fuel diversity. The increased demand for alternative energy supplies also could create as many as 1,200 jobs, Board of Public Utilities President Jeanne Fox said.

"It's a significant step forward for New Jersey," Fox said. "'If there is an impact on rates, it will, in my opinion, be minimal."

The state commissioned a study by Rutgers University's Center for Energy, Economics and Environment, which estimated using more renewable energy sources would boost electric bills for the average household $5 a year by 2008 and $18 annually by 2020. That study, however, was completed two years ago, before the steep run-up in natural gas and oil prices.

In June, consumers will be paying between 12 percent and 14 percent more on their monthly bills as a result of higher power contracts the state's four electric utilities entered into this past February.

"Given the fact we're in a high- cost energy environment, we need to evaluate the impact on the rate payer," Commissioner Christine Bator said.

Fox said, however, the push to promote alternative energy sources could lead to less volatility in the price of electricity by reducing demand at peak times and easing congestion on a crowded transmis sion system. Solar power is particularly effective in reducing peak loads.

The rule includes a requirement that solar photovoltaic systems produce 2 percent of the energy in New Jersey by 2020, or 1500 megawatts. A megawatt is enough electricity to light about 800 homes.

New Jersey has witnessed growth in solar installations in re cent years, thanks to a rebate program that funds between 60 to 70 percent of the cost of installing a system. Five years ago, there were just six solar installations in the state, but today there are more than 1,200.

"New Jersey has become a national clean-energy leader, provid ing the building block to take our state on the road to energy inde pendence," said Suzanne Leta, energy advocate for the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group.

The 20 percent target originally had raised concern among some in dustry and utility advocates be cause it is so aggressive.

"Certainly, there is not enough today to meet the goal," said Roger Schwarz, an attorney representing the Retail Energy Supply Association. "By setting the goal, the board is hoping supplier swill respond to meet the demand in New Jersey."

Jen Connell, a spokeswoman for Public Service Electric & Gas, said the utility supports the efforts to promote additional sources of energy while noting the 20 percent target "poses a challenge" to meet.


Tom Johnson may be reached at tjohnson@starledger.com or (973) 392-5972.


Source: http://www.nj.com/business/...

APR 13 2006
http://www.windaction.org/posts/2133-state-sets-aggressive-clean-energy-goal
back to top