When New Jersey unveiled the most recent Energy Master Plan in January, wary residents who already pay the nation’s highest property taxes feared it would lead to huge increases in their energy bills. They are absolutely right.
A report by New Jersey for Affordable Energy concludes that the plan – requiring 100% use of wind and solar energy by 2050 and eliminating abundant, lower-cost natural gas and traditional space and water heaters – will trigger sky-high electricity rates, since 75% of New Jersey’s energy consumers use natural gas.
That’s not all. A recent study by Continental Economics, an energy and economic consulting firm, estimates it will cost at least $65 billion to retrofit New Jersey’s nearly two million single-family homes, 350,000 apartments and thousands of restaurants and other commercial businesses that rely on natural gas for heat, hot water, and cooking.
That startling price tag for retrofitting is realistic. An analysis of 600 homes in Massachusetts found that the average cost of switching to an electric heat pump was $23,000. That’s three times more than the $7,500 retrofitting estimate of Gov. Phil Murphy’s plan.
The anticipated skyrocketing of electricity bills is also fact-based, and not predicated on rosy assumptions, as the EMP is.
The silence from our leaders in Trenton is telling. Proponents introduced the EMP without a cost analysis, and turned it in to state regulators after the public’s opportunity to comment on it had passed.
The state’s energy regulators have been forthright, if not specific, about the impending cost explosion the EMP entails. Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the Board of Public Utilities, in April said the plan is “expensive, and we know it is expensive.” Earlier, two Murphy administration policymakers at a business forum told attendees that the public must accept they need to pay more for energy, without a hint of presumption.
The reason they must bear this cost, New Jersey residents are told, is to protect the environment.
Let’s be clear – all Americans should promote environmental progress and keep our nation’s world-leading record of 19 years of the largest absolute emissions reductions intact and getting better every year.
There are many ways to help our environment, and natural gas and renewable energy sources powering our grid together is one proven way. In fact, that’s why America has slashed emissions year after year, according to the Energy Information Administration.
But what the EMP gets dangerously wrong is the idea that natural gas can be eliminated without having an adequate, always-on backup energy source. As now configured, the EMP has New Jersey headed toward a California’s unfortunate position – plenty of electrification mandates and high electric bills, but not enough electricity.
It will also needlessly remove an energy source with a two-decade track record of reducing emissions and leaving a gap that can only be filled with older, less clean generation methods when wind and solar are unable to produce energy because of weather conditions or the time of day.
That is to say nothing of the cost to New Jersey’s families who are below the poverty line or on fixed incomes. Perversely, initiatives like the EMP are funded with the state’s Societal Benefits Charge, which is a percentage of every New Jersey energy bill. Seems innocuous enough until one considers that the higher the bill, the higher this hidden tax becomes – a daunting prospect for those already struggling to afford the energy they need.
While electricity is the most expensive energy source in the state, affordable natural gas saved New Jersey residents over $21.2 billion since 2006. All of these savings happened while the United States became the world’s largest oil and gas producer and the second largest renewable energy producer.
We urge New Jersey residents to contemplate the shock they will get from the energy mandates being forced upon them at the behest of special interests. Look at your electric bill now and consider the impact on your budget of a bill three or four times as big as it is now. Extrapolate that out to state’s economic and job growth.
It’s time, isn’t it, to urge the New Jersey’s elected leaders to re-evaluate EMP with a dose of realism.
Michael Butler is the Mid-Atlantic director for Consumer Energy Alliance, a U.S. consumer advocate supporting affordable, reliable energy for working families, seniors and businesses across the country.
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