Two weeks after announcing plans to pull out of a regional carbon emissions-reduction program, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie says he wants to scale back the state’s renewable energy targets. In his proposed 10-year energy master plan, Christie put a greater emphasis on nuclear and natural gas, while scaling back renewable energy goals, saying they were “pie-in-the-sky.”
The new master plan cuts the state’s renewable energy targets from 30 percent by 2021 down to 22.5% by that date. The targets were created by former Governor John Corzine, who was labeled by Christie in 2008 as someone who “likes to talk a lot about renewable energy, but hasn’t done much of anything.”
While campaigning for governor in 2008, Christie called renewable energy the “future” of New Jersey’s energy; however in the last few weeks he has supported cutting programs designed to help stimulate development of renewables. Clean energy advocates in the state are outraged:
“Unfortunately the governor’s plan undermines New Jersey’s progress and leadership position on clean energy and tackling global warming,” said Matt Elliott with Environment New Jersey. “Instead of supporting the state’s efforts, the governor is scaling back on programs that work and that should be expanded.”
Christie “goes back on a 20-year commitment in this state to clean energy,” the Sierra Club’s Jeff Tittel said. He said language questioning the need to continue subsidies for solar energy could jeopardize outside financial investment in the state in the renewable energy sector, ultimately losing jobs.
Christie says he wants to install an additional 2,000 MW of natural gas plants – recently providing $2 billion for four new projects in the state. But participants in the mid-Atlantic electric power market, PJM, challenged those incentives, saying they violated competitiveness rules.
Those companies said that New Jersey’s over-subsidization of natural gas – a mature technology – will make it hard for demand response providers (i.e. companies that provide clean, energy efficiency services) to compete in the wholesale power market.
Many question whether spending an additional $2 billion on natural gas – while scaling back targets for renewable energy – is a good way to build an industry that the Governor once called “a key part of the Christie Administration.”
“Natural gas is an established technology that should be able to compete in the PJM marketplace,” says Richard Caperton, a Senior Policy Analyst with the Center for American Progress. “A dollar per watt is a lot of money to give to a mature technology – that’s almost the going rate for new construction.”
At the same time, the proposed energy master plan may scale back incentives to still-nascent solar PV – a technology that, while still relatively immature, is becoming competitive with peaking natural gas plants: “The Christie Administration does not support the unreasonable transference of wealth from ratepayers at large to solar developers as well as residential, commercial and industrial participants.”
Christie has come under fire in recent weeks for saying he wants more renewable energy, while also shifting incentives and state goals away from the programs that benefit the industry most.
For more, see this TP Green post by Brad Johnson, “Chris Christie Continues Koch Binge, Slashes Renewable Targets.”