Gov. Chris Christie called for revisions to New Jersey’s 10-year energy master plan at a news conference in Trenton on Tuesday. Here, he spoke at the National Guard Armory in Toms River.
Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that he planned to scale back New Jersey’s goals for renewable energy as he looked for an “achievable” approach to generating electricity in the state.
Public hearings will be held on the plan before it becomes final. The revision sets the amount of electricity to be obtained from renewable sources like solar or wind power at 22.5 percent by 2021, down from 30 percent. It also puts more emphasis on electricity powered by natural gas; the state is already seeking to build three new gas plants.
Speaking at a news conference in Trenton, Mr. Christie, a Republican, said he was not retreating from having wind and solar power play “a continuing larger role in supporting the energy needs of the state.” The new plan maintains support for offshore wind projects and emphasizes development of large-scale commercial and industrial solar energy projects, particularly on landfills and brownfield sites.
But the governor called the 10-year goal of 22.5 percent realistic, “not a pie-in-the-sky number.”
“We wanted to put forward a document that was responsible and achievable,” he said.
Some legislators and environmental advocates said they were disappointed that a state that was second only to California in solar power capacity would cut back on its public policy commitment to renewable energy. “The renewable energy goals were achievable,” said Matt Elliott, the clean energy advocate for the environmental group Environment New Jersey. “We’re increasing the amount of solar every year and seeing the costs drop.”
Bob Smith, a Piscataway Democrat who is chairman of the State Senate’s Environment and Energy Committee, said the progress of generating solar power would be endangered if the new plan “sends a signal that we’re not quite as serious as we used to be.”
“If you make the numbers more aggressive, you’re going to see more renewables,” he said.
In announcing last month that New Jersey would withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which provides participating states with hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in clean energy and energy efficiency projects, Mr. Christie said the program was an ineffective way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Officials in participating states like New York and Massachusetts challenged that assessment, calling the program a success.
On Tuesday, Mr. Christie said he wanted to create a “basket of options” from which the state would draw the most economically and environmentally sound sources of power generation for New Jersey, which, he said, had some of the highest electricity rates in the country.
Nuclear power will continue to be part of the policy mix, he said, as well as conservation efforts like making government buildings more energy efficient.
Michael Egenton, senior vice president for government relations at theNew Jersey Chamber of Commerce, called the proposed energy plan “business-friendly” for advancing a diversified energy portfolio. “It keeps in mind the energy costs in the region,” he said. “We also recognize that in a state like New Jersey, we need everything on the table.”