South Jersey Industries to announce ambitious timeline to be carbon neutral by 2040

Utility company will unveil Clean Energy and Sustainability plan Monday — one that aims to have a 70% reduction of operational emissions by 2030

South Jersey Industries on Monday will announce a Clean Energy and Sustainability plan that includes an ambitious timeline for achieving 100% carbon-neutral operations by 2040, company officials said.

SJI, which formed a Clean Energy and Sustainability team last year, has set a goal of achieving a 70% carbon reduction of operational emissions and consumption by the year 2030.

Through a new series of sustainability initiatives, SJI officials said they plan to reach that goal by eliminating the utility’s own carbon footprint and significantly reducing the fossil fuel consumption of its more than 700,000 customers.

SJI CEO Mike Renna said the utility is committing at least 25% of annual capital expenditures on sustainability projects moving forward. Under this plan, capital expenditures will include the installation of solar panels on SJI facilities, the replacement of aging transmission pipes to reduce “fugitive” emissions, upgrading leak detection technologies and completing the conversion of service vehicles to low carbon-density fuels such as compressed natural gas.

In addition, Renna said SJI is committing to a series of investments aimed at reducing fossil fuel consumption by its natural gas utility customers at South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas.

These investments include:

  • Significantly expanding energy efficiency programs;
  • Providing consumers new tools to reduce energy consumption;
  • Investing in several clean and renewable energy technologies such as renewable natural gas, green hydrogen and high-efficiency fuel cells.

“As an experienced energy leader, SJI has a vital role to play in the clean energy future of our state, region and country,” Renna said. “We are excited by the impact our modern infrastructure will have in helping New Jersey and the region decarbonize. And we are committed to investing in new technologies that will safely, reliably and affordably deliver low-carbon energy to the more than 700,000 families and businesses that we serve across our state.”

The announcement of the plan is just the latest move that demonstrates the utility’s commitment to sustainability, Renna said. In recent months, SJI has taken the following actions as part of the company’s Clean Energy and Sustainability plan:

  • Formed Catamaran Renewables, a joint renewable energy investment venture with Captona, and acquired 7.5 megawatts in high-efficiency fuel cell systems, with additional projects in development;
  • Invested $39.8 million to acquire a minority interest in REV LNG, a national leader in producing renewable natural gas — and secured the rights to produce RNG;
  • Entered a partnership with Atlantic Shores Offshore Wind to create a green hydrogen pilot program in conjunction with the bid for a wind farm off the coast of southern New Jersey;
  • Secured approval by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to expand energy efficiency programs for South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas customers by $216 million. Fully subscribed, the programs could collectively save customers approximately $329 million and prevent the release of more than 950,000 tons of CO2 emissions;
  • Had South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas launched Conserve, an online tool to help residential and commercial customers consume less energy;
  • Installed solar panels on SJI facilities.

SJI Utilities President Dave Robbins said Conserve can be a real difference-maker.

“The best way for our customers to reduce their carbon footprints is to consume less,” he said. “At our utilities, we are more than doubling our energy efficiency programs and launching Conserve, our online tool to help customers save energy.

“We’re empowering customers to help the environment as well as save money.”

SJI, an energy services holding company based in Folsom, delivers energy services to its customers through three primary subsidiaries:

  • SJI Utilities, SJI’s regulated natural gas utility business, delivers natural gas to approximately 700,000 South Jersey Gas and Elizabethtown Gas customers in New Jersey;
  • South Jersey Energy Solutions promote efficiency, clean technology and renewable energy by providing customized wholesale commodity marketing and fuel management services — and developing, owning and operating on-site energy production facilities. It houses SJI’s nonutility businesses;
  • SJI Midstream houses the company’s interest in the PennEast Pipeline Project.

To date, SJI utilities have invested more than $133 million on energy efficiency programs, including rebates on high-efficiency heating equipment, weatherization for low- to moderate-income households and home energy assessments. The new $216 million expansion of those programs will begin in July 2021.