By Michele S. Byers
While Washington, D.C., turns it back on climate change, New Jersey is busy reclaiming its national leadership role on clean energy.
One year ago, New Jersey passed a landmark clean energy law to transition half of the state’s electricity from fossil fuels to renewable sources like wind and solar by 2030. Also one year ago, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order setting a goal of 100% clean energy by 2050.
Switching to clean, renewable energy will mean less air pollution, more jobs and savings for consumers. Yes, studies show consumers will save from a smart combination of renewables, energy efficiency, storage and other clean energy strategies.
A new report by the national nonpartisan group Energy Entrepreneurs, also known as E2, shows that New Jersey already has nearly 52,000 jobs in the clean energy industry, with many more to come as the state reduces fossil fuels and gets more energy efficient.
“Companies are replacing fossil fuels with more solar, offshore wind, energy storage and a smarter grid,” according to the E2 report on New Jersey. “As the state commits to scale energy efficiency, demand for the power we need to go about our daily lives is flattening and will decrease. As these major changes occur, New Jersey has an opportunity to capitalize on clean energy’s economic benefits, including job growth and lower electric bills.”
Check out some highlights of the E2 report:
• Solar – New Jersey currently has about 8,800 jobs in solar energy, placing it ninth in the nation. The state’s clean energy law also calls for more cost-effective solar incentives, as well as “community” solar pilot programs for residents who can’t build solar panels on their homes.
“As a densely populated state with longstanding and ongoing land preservation and natural resource protection efforts, New Jersey must continue to direct large-scale solar development to locations that protect New Jersey’s remaining open space,” the E2 report said.
• Offshore wind – New Jersey has little potential for land-based wind energy, but conditions off the coast are ideal for offshore wind, which has the potential to power more than two million homes. As the report notes, however, it’s critical that offshore wind projects don’t impact endangered right whales and other threatened species.
• Clean energy jobs – According to the E2 report, jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency, electrical grid and storage, clean vehicles and fuels are found in every New Jersey county. Two-thirds of the jobs are in energy efficiency, which includes Energy Star appliances and lighting; high efficiency and traditional heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and materials.
During June, New Jersey will choose the companies to build the state’s first offshore wind project. This will be the largest offshore wind project approved by any state, making New Jersey a leader in developing this new clean source of energy.
Also in June, the state is expected to release a draft energy master plan to map out a course for achieving 100% clean energy by 2050. A strong plan will identify strategies to replace fossil fuels, including natural gas, with the least-cost mix of clean energy.
Thanks to Gov. Murphy and legislative leaders, New Jersey is firmly on the path to a clean energy future that will reduce harmful emissions, strengthen our economy, improve public health and ultimately lower costs for consumers.
Michele S. Byers is the executive director of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Far Hills. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org