Changing the energy narrative: Murphy says environmental, economic benefits are not mutually exclusive

As he stood before a group of more than 600 on Monday at the New Jersey Clean Energy Conference in Atlantic City, Gov. Phil Murphy rattled off a list of state agencies involved in the state’s clean energy efforts.

The Board of Public Utilities, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Economic Development Authority and the Governor’s Office of Climate Action and the Green Economy — just to name a few, he said.

Murphy did this, he said, to show how far-reaching an effort this is — and how climate change, sustainability and green energy are about so much more than just environmental issues.

“Too many people try to pigeonhole energy or the environment into a single lens,” he told the crowd. “And that could not be further from the truth.

“I point it out because it shows conclusively how our administration views the green economy. I think it shows how committed we are to changing the false narrative that we have been fed for far too long: That we would either do what was right environmentally, or what was right economically, but not both.”

Murphy said clean-energy initiatives — especially when you consider the booming offshore wind energy sector — have changed the landscape.

“And, moreover,” he said, “we have no intention of stopping our progress.”

In September, Murphy signed an executive order an increase in the state’s offshore wind energy goals to 11,000 megawatts by the year 2040. He said he only was able to do that because of the strong economic benefit the state already had received in trying to reach earlier goals.

He pointed to the recently released report from the Green Jobs Council, which shows the combination of wind energy, solar energy, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, green building and infrastructure could bring tens of thousands of jobs by the end of the decade.

“These are not just jobs,” he said. “In most cases, (they are) jobs that become careers in practically every labor sector, from construction to transportation and supply chain logistics, to manufacturing and trade.”

Murphy said the state is on pace to reach what he once thought was a lofty goal: To have a 100%, fossil-free green economy by 2050.

“At the time (it was proposed), I knew, and our team knew, that the target was aggressive, but also achievable,” he said. “And, through the policies that we’ve been put in place and the projects we’ve got moving ahead, we are already on track to have roughly 85% of our state’s energy derived from non-greenhouse gas-emitting sources by the end of this decade, 2030.”

There’s no denying that environmental efforts boost the economy, Murphy said.

“So, we’re not just committed to changing the narrative,” he said. “In fact, we are changing that narrative for good.”