New Jersey released its revised Energy Master Plan on Friday, which calls for greater energy resiliency and puts less faith in offshore wind.
The aims of the energy plan, according to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, are to drive down costs for utility customers; promote a diverse portfolio of new, clean generation; reward energy efficiency and conservation; capitalize on the latest technology for production and distribution of power and to reach 22.5 percent renewable power by 2021.
New to the plan is a focus on energy resiliency in the face of storms such as 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, which left 2.7 million people in New Jersey without power and destroyed infrastructure such as natural gas lines on Long Beach Island and other places.
The plan calls for using federal tax money to invest in “microgrids” that can operate after a storm.
The plan also promotes the expansion of natural-gas pipelines and endorses New Jersey’s four nuclear power plants, which provide about half of the power produced in the state.
But the plan seems to hold little promise for the development of offshore wind in New Jersey.
“While offshore wind may become a valuable energy resource, generating enough energy through offshore wind carries significant drawbacks,” the draft report says. “While the future may bring change, offshore wind in the U.S. is not economically viable at this time.”
Two companies this month won a federal auction for offshore-wind leases in waters 7 miles off New Jersey. The auction was the fifth to develop offshore wind in federal waters.
The master plan has generated a lot of public interest. A hearing in August in Galloway Township drew four hours of testimony. The BPU heard criticism from environmental groups as well as the state Division of Rate Counsel, which represents utility customers.
Rate Counsel Director Stefanie Brand testified in August that the master plan describes New Jersey’s electric prices as improving compared to other states. Brand said data show other states are simply raising electricity rates more than New Jersey.
“While we should be glad that electricity prices have remained stable in New Jersey, it would be foolish and inaccurate to view our state as one that is no longer subject to high energy costs,” she said.
The New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club this week criticized the plan for promoting fossil fuels, particularly natural gas, while being less ambitious about renewable energy such as solar.
“This plan does nothing to promote solar or wind,” spokesman Jeff Tittel said. “But it’s promoting natural gas and pipelines. We should be looking at ways to reduce greenhouse gases, not increase them.”
Solar power has grown to nearly 3 percent of New Jersey’s total power production, behind only Arizona and California in generation.
So far, the state’s Energy Master Plan Committee has taken 1,093 written comments.
The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities will continue to accept comments on the plan through Dec. 4, spokesman Gregory Reinert said. The committee is composed of various state agencies and headed by BPU President Richard Mroz.