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Renewable-energy goals scaled down

TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie said New Jersey will rely more on the sun, wind and natural gas for energy in the next 10 years, though he left open the possibility of a new nuclear plant – with Salem County the likely site but Lacey also in the running.

Christie unveiled a revised draft energy master plan Tuesday, saying a primary goal is to bring down consumer costs. New Jersey’s electric ratepayers pay the fourth-highest retail power rates in the United States.

Energy company officials said it’s too early to tell what impact the policy, spelled out in a 141-page document, would have on future rates.

“We commend Gov. Christie for advancing a plan that addresses New Jersey’s energy needs but we are still reviewing the plan and all of its details,’’ said Ron Morano, a spokesman for Jersey Central Power & Light Co.

The Christie proposal has significant changes from the previous 2008 master plan from then-Gov. Jon S. Corzine, including reducing a goal to have energy needs generated by a percentage of renewable energy sources. The previous goal of 30 percent – “never achievable,” according to Christie – is being reset to 22.5 percent with a 2021 target date, a tweak that immediately drew outrage from environmental groups.

Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club said the Republican governor had advanced a corporation-friendly energy policy, aimed at pleasing conservatives.

“New Jersey, which has been one of the clean energy leaders nationally, is now cutting its clean energy goals,” said Tittel, who added that Christie had “furthered his national political ambitions’’ with the new plan.

But Christie said the changes will allow for “a greener and more affordable vision for the use, management, and development of energy in New Jersey over the next decade and beyond.’’ He said the goals are to bring down energy costs, protect the environment and stimulate the economy.

Christie at a Statehouse news conference said that under a “portfolio of new, clean, in-state generation’’ a new nuclear plant in Salem County could be an option to replace the energy void that will occur when the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey is decommissioned in 2019.