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State targets renewable energy sources

Twenty percent of the electricity consumed in New Jersey by 2020 must come from renewable sources, such as wind and sun, up from 1 percent today, according to new regulations adopted unanimously Wednesday by the state’s Board of Public Utilities.

“Increased use of renewable resources, specifically solar, will provide greater fuel diversity for New Jersey, while simultaneously reducing price volatility, strengthening the economy, improving public health and reducing greenhouse gases,” said Jeanne M. Fox, utilities board president.

New Jersey Public Interest Research Group and the Sierra Club applauded the decision, but the state’s leading business and industry group warned that the rules will end up costing ratepayers more.

“Renewable power is more expensive and 68 percent of New Jersey’s energy load is paid by business and industry, not homeowners,” said Sara Bluhm, director of energy and federal affairs for the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

“We’re all for energy efficiency and saving customers’ money, but we’re opposed to mandatory requirements that will increase the price of electricity,” she said.

In order to reach the new goal, Bluhm urged the board to be as generous in its subsidies on solar power to industry as it is with homeowners.

Results of a study conducted by the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy of Rutgers University indicate the change will boost consumer costs by 2 to 3 percent. At the same time, electricity demands are expected to increase in New Jersey by 29 percent within the next 15 years. Natural gas needs are projected to rise by 9 percent.

State utility board chief Fox disagreed with the forecast, saying increased efficiency standards would help hold the line on higher costs and demand.

New Jersey PIRG, for example, is lobbying for passage of bills that would require all new residential and commercial construction to meet Federal Energy Star standards – 30 percent more efficient – and similar upgrades on appliances, such as DVD players, lighting fixtures and furnaces.

Incentive programs have made New Jersey one of the fastest-growing solar markets in the country, going from six solar installations in 2001 to more than 1,200 today, said Fox.

“Emissions from electricity generation are not only the single largest cause of global warming, but also toxic to human health,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the state chapter of the Sierra Club.

Suzanne Leta, energy advocate for NJPIRG, praised the new standard and urged Gov. Jon S. Corzine to do more.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Gov. Corzine to be a visionary in mapping out our energy future,” said Leta.

Efforts to reach Public Service Electric & Gas Co., the state’s largest supplier of electricity, which would be held to the new standard, were unsuccessful.

By Eileen Stilwell
Courier-Post Staff
Reach Eileen Stilwell at (856) 486-2464 or estilwell@courierpostonline.com