DEP: Call for electrification of boilers remains possibility for future

Controversial (and costly) provision was pulled from NJ PACT rules last week, but it could return in future

Closeup of manometer, pipes and faucet valves of heating system in a boiler room

A mandate calling for electrification of all commercial boilers, beginning in 2025, last week was pulled by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection from its “NJ PACT” rules.

The idea, however, is not dead. It was only shelved.

Spokesperson Vincent Grassi said the DEP is hoping to bring it back in the future.

“DEP will continue to stakeholder the boiler issue as part of our second round of PACT Climate Pollutant Reduction initiatives to ensure that the eventual regulation of boilers achieves a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at a reasonable cost,” he told ROI-NJ last week.

What defines a “reasonable cost” likely will continue to frame the issue.

Opponents of the idea said they are not against clean energy proposals — they just found this one to come at an enormous cost to businesses, consumers and taxpayers. Replacing even a single boiler could cost approximately $2 million, making this a multibillion-dollar mandate.

A coalition of 32 business and labor groups estimates the total cost could be approximately $17 billion.

Eric DeGesero, executive vice president of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey and one of the key leaders in the coalition and the yearlong effort to get the provision dropped, said he was thrilled by the development — but he warned concerns over the governor’s Energy Master Plan remain.

“After an outcry from businesses, nonprofits and unions, we were heartened to see NJDEP remove from recent regulations the costly boiler electrification requirement, which would have cost school districts, municipalities and businesses $2 million for each boiler,” he said. “However, our concerns still remain that the governor’s Energy Master Plan ultimately mandates all commercial buildings and residential homes be converted to electric, despite the astronomical price tag and the strain on our already fragile electric grid.”

Ray Cantor, the deputy chief government affairs officer at the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, also expressed concerns.

“In addition to the millions of additional dollars this provision would have cost these establishments, the fact of the matter is, converting a modern, fuel-efficient natural gas boiler to an electric one would actually increase carbon emissions due to the carbon footprint of the PJM grid,” he said.

“NJBIA maintains our concerns about the costs and feasibility of an all-electrification policy that continues to be a mandate of the (Gov. Phil) Murphy administration. Clean energy cannot realistically be a single-source proposition.”

Opponents repeatedly have called on the Legislature would take action on the issue, pointing to a bill (S2671/A3935), sponsored by state Sen. Vin Gopal (D-Ocean Twp.) and Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Turnersville).

“(It) requires a thorough review of the cost and efficacy of an electrification-only policy and legislative authorization before it is mandated,” DeGesero said.