Sharing a stage in Jersey City on Tuesday with one of the world’s most prominent climate activists, Gov. Phil Murphy took the next step in his plan to reach New Jersey’s clean energy future.
Flanked by former Vice President Al Gore and New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy, the governor announced the signing of a new executive order that sets a goal to have New Jersey produce 7,500 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035 – more than double the current goal of 3,500 megawatts by 2030.
“That’s more investment. That’s more jobs,” Murphy said. “That’s more clean energy.”
According to Murphy, 7,500 megawatts of electricity is enough to power about 3.2 million homes. The development of New Jersey’s offshore wind industry, Murphy said, will bring billions in investment dollars to the Garden State. It is unclear how much this increased goal, if met, would affect New Jersey customers’ electric bills.
Murphy wants to leverage the development of offshore wind in New Jersey to turn the state into an international leader in the industry. In April, the state created the New Jersey Offshore Wind Supply Chain Registry to facilitate development of the industry here. So far, Murphy said, more than 460 companies have joined the registry.
Murphy also said the state Economic Development Agency is creating a technical assistance program to help New Jersey companies develop the skills needed to participate in this new industry.
“So, here’s my message to the skeptics and the climate deniers, and, it really is this simple – offshore wind is a win for our environment, a win for our economy, and win for our future,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s larger goal, spurred on by the desire to slash New Jersey’s greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the state’s contribution to climate change, is to have the Garden State get 50% of its power from clean sources by 2030 and 100% by 2050.
Murphy said that the expanded offshore wind goal is made possible by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s anticipated move to open up hundreds of thousands of acres of ocean to development next year.
With Murphy’s new order, New Jersey’s goal is still less than the 9,000-megawatt target that has been set by New York.
New Jersey is already committed to developing 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind through the construction of Ørsted’s Ocean Wind project, which got the state’s blessing in July. Ocean Wind alone is expected to generate enough electricity to power 500,000 homes, and is expected to be operational by 2024.
In September, Ørsted was approved to use the former Oyster Creek nuclear plant in Lacey Township as a landing point for bringing Ocean Wind’s electricity onshore. The shuttered B.L. England coal power plant in Upper Township could also serve as a landing point for future offshore wind projects.
The state is scheduled to make a solicitation for a second 1,100 megawatt offshore wind facility next year. A third solicitation, for a 1,200 megawatt wind farm, is expected in 2022.
Gore followed Murphy and immediately hailed the governor’s actions to fight climate change, rattling off a praise for a variety of steps taken by the Murphy administration from movement to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Alliance to creating the state’s community solar power pilot program.
One of the most high profile climate activists in the world, Gore used his 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth” to thrust the issue of climate change into the mainstream. Today, Gore remains passionate about the need for societal change to ward off the worst threats of climate change. In his speech Tuesday, Gore compared the fight against climate change to 9/11, and pivotal World War II struggles the Battle of Midway and the Battle of the Bulge.
“We have a very serious challenge,” Gore said. “And nobody should be under any illusion: This is the life or death battle for those of us who are privileged to be alive in the first decades of the 21st Century.”
Gore said that he believes the global society will change to fight climate change, and said that Murphy is among the leaders of that change.
“Yes, we can change,” Gore said. “New Jersey is leading the way to change.”
Murphy’s announcement was also praised by environmental activists.
“We are thrilled to hear Gov. Murphy’s announcement that bigger things are ahead of us on the offshore wind horizon. New Jersey is a national front runner,” said Amy Goldsmith, Clean Water Action’s New Jersey State Director. “It is imperative that we do everything we can to reduce greenhouse gases by 45% as fast as we can by 2030. Ramping up renewables like wind and solar as well as advancing energy efficiency and clean transportation are critical; and they must go hand in hand with saying no to any more fossil fuel projects if we are to survive the climate reality of the future which is already here.”
Jeff Tittel, the director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, echoed that sentiment.
“Its a win for the environment, its a win for the battle against climate change and its a win for the economy,” Tittel said of Murphy’s new goal.
But as Murphy touted New Jersey’s clean energy future, some activists in the crowd protested the development of fossil fuel projects in the state, through the proposed expansion of natural gas pipelines and the construction of new natural gas power plants.
Between Murphy and Gore’s speeches, a few protestors chanted “moratorium on fossil fuels.”