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Opinions differ at energy use hearing  

Some suggested the state expand efforts to develop wind power. Others said more should be done to reduce energy use. Industry officials pushed for streamlining the permitting process so they can build power plants more quickly.

As officials yesterday held the first in a series of public hearings on the state’s energy master plan, there was wide disagreement about the steps New Jersey should take to ensure it produces enough power to keep lights on for residents and businesses during the next decade and more – and at a cost people can afford.

Most of those who spoke endorsed ambitious goals to reduce energy consumption 20 percent by 2020, and to have at least 20 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources such as solar panels. Some environmentalists, however, said the twin targets were far too conservative, and criticized a proposal for a new nuclear power plant.

“We don’t think it makes a lot of sense to put a huge amount of capital in a nuclear power plant,” Richard Webster, an attorney for the Eastern Environmental Law Clinic, told the state Board of Public Utility at a hearing in Newark. He said the money would better be spent on solar and wind projects, which likely will be less costly than nuclear power by the time a new unit could be built.

Anne Hoskins, a vice president at Newark-based Public Service Enterprise Group, which is considering building a nuclear plant in South Jersey, argued otherwise.

“At this time, the only viable means to produce base load power without carbon emissions is nuclear power,” Hoskins said.

New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate Stefanie Brand backed efforts to cut energy use, but cautioned achieving a 20 percent reduction in energy use would require an enormous investment.

“Clearly, we cannot ask already over-burdened ratepayers to simply fund all of these programs through their electric and gas bills,” she said.

The hearings on the draft plan, nearly two years in the making, will continue at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at the Statehouse annex in Trenton and at 2 p.m. Thursday at Tohill Auditorium at Rowan University in Glassboro. The plan is expected to be adopted sometime this fall.

By Tom Johnson
Staf-Ledger Staff

The Star-Ledger

11 July 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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