New Jersey energy plan update outlines changing power generation mix

President Richard S. Mroz of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and Commissioner Bob Martin of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection on Nov. 20 released for public comment a draft update to the 2011 New Jersey Energy Master Plan (EMP).

The draft update measures the progress made toward meeting the goals set in the 2011 EMP and makes recommendations for building on that progress. It also includes a new section that sets goals and makes specific recommendations to improve the resiliency of the New Jersey’s energy infrastructure along with its emergency preparedness and response capabilities.

“This update shows that Governor [Chris] Christie’s strategies in the 2011 State Energy Master Plan are producing strong results and moving the State towards the goal of reducing energy costs from being among the nation’s highest and making them competitive to costs in other regions and states. This is consistent with the recommendations of the State Strategic Plan for facilitating economic growth and lowering the cost of living for New Jersey residents,” said Mroz. “Energy is a vital tool of economic growth and job creation.”

“This update also reflects New Jersey’s national leadership in reducing emissions from power plants,” Martin said. “The 2011 Energy Master Plan helped accelerate New Jersey’s transition to cleaner burning, less expensive natural gas. As a result, New Jersey’s sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions are amongst the three lowest in the nation and nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are amongst the six lowest in the nation. This update shows that the Christie Administration’s energy policy has been good for both the environment and the economy.”

The draft EMP Update documents New Jersey’s significant progress towards the EMP’s five overarching goals:

  • Driving down the cost of energy for all customers;
  • Promoting a diverse portfolio of new, clean in-state generation;
  • Rewarding energy efficiency, energy conservation and reduce peak demand;
  • Capitalizing on emerging technologies for transportation and power production; and
  • Maintaining support for the renewable energy portfolio standard of 22.5% of energy from renewable sources by 2021.

Since the release of the EMP in December 2011, New Jersey has fallen from a high energy cost state to a range that falls within the national average for total energy costs (electricity, natural gas, fuel oil and gasoline). Prior to the release of the EMP in December 2011, the cost of natural gas in New Jersey was ranked approximately 17th highest in the nation. Today, New Jersey’s natural gas prices are among the lowest in the country.

This huge decrease was anticipated in the EMP and has been critical to successfully reducing the state’s total energy costs, the cost of electricity and improving the environmental performance of New Jersey’s electric generation.

New Jersey’s in-state electric energy resources are diverse and amongst the cleanest in the nation, despite being the 22nd largest electricity generating state. This is a direct result of the state’s current resource mix of nuclear (which accounts for about half of all in-state generation), natural gas and renewables.

New Jersey continues to meet its renewable energy portfolio standards as nearly 15% of electricity supplied in the state is attributed to renewable sources; with solar accounting for nearly 3% of the state’s generation mix this energy year. New Jersey has also seen success in reducing energy usage through its support for demand reduction and energy efficiency technologies.

Storm-proofing is a major part of the New Jersey effort

Since the release of the 2011 EMP, New Jersey suffered devastating damage from the impacts of Superstorm Sandy and other major storms and weather events. The Christie Administration has made it a priority to improve energy resiliency and emergency preparedness and response.

Policy recommendations contained in this new section of the draft EMP Update are based on New Jersey’s Plan for Action in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy and include protecting critical energy infrastructure, improving the electric companies’ emergency preparedness and response, increasing the use of microgrid technologies and applications for distributed energy resources (DER) and creating long-term financing for resiliency measures.

The draft EMP Update is now open for a 14-day written public comment period. The written comment period commences immediately and will end at the close of business on Friday, Dec. 4.

The update said that New Jersey has made significant progress toward achieving a diverse portfolio of clean energy. The state’s promotion of new electric natural gas generation has contributed to this progress. Currently, more than 2,000 MW of new combined cycle natural gas generation units are under construction and all will be operational by 2015-2016 calendar years.

This newer, more efficient generation will help maintain lower wholesale prices for electricity, reduce emissions, and maximize integration of variable and intermittent power produced by renewable energy sources.

New Jersey also has benefitted from the enhancement and expansion of its natural gas transmission and distribution systems. Expanding and upgrading the natural gas inter- and intra-state pipelines will help further lower the cost of energy to New Jersey’s homeowners and businesses and reduce emissions. BPU has approved almost $1 billion for natural gas utility infrastructure upgrades and mitigation projects. An additional $280 million in proposed projects is pending.

New Jersey’s in-state electricity generation by fuel type has changed significantly since 2011. Notably, imports now only account for approximately 12% of New Jersey’s total electricity usage. Between 2011 and 2014:

  • coal in-state generation was cut in half, from 8% to 4%;
  • renewables doubled, from 2% to 4%;
  • natural gas increased by one-third, from 33% to 44%; and
  • nuclear held steady at an average of about 50% (the annual rate fluctuates due to scheduled and unscheduled outages).

With the drop in natural gas prices, electricity demand has increasingly been met by cleaner, in-state, combined cycle natural gas generation and less on imported power from facilities with higher, more polluting, emission profiles, said the update.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.