On 1-to-10 scale, how is N.J. progressing toward its clean energy goals?

It’s easy to poke holes in the efforts Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration has made to advance its clean energy goals. Change is hard. The state, however, deserves credit for at least attempting to address an issue that impacts climate change. And, while even the state admits its 2019 Energy Master Plan needs to be redone, it has made numerous moves that put it ahead of — and make it the envy of — nearly every state in the country. ROI-NJ asked the three panelists at our recent Energy Infrastructure thought leadership event to rate the state, 1 to 10, on its clean energy efforts. And, since few people speak in grammatically correct sentences, we edited their responses for readability purposes.

Eric DeGesero
Executive director
Fuel Merchants Association of N.J.

I’ll be ambitious and say a 3. 

We are now beginning to embark on the discussions that we need to have. The 9.2 million of us here are represented by our elected officials in the Legislature, where a discussion like this is nuanced of how we’re organized as a society. 

We’re making a societal transformational change, that’s the objective. We’re changing our energy, our housing, our environment, our building policies — these are discussions that need a much broader base than just being dictated by the chief executive, which is how it has been the past number of years.

There’s a desire to now at least have a discussion about moving forward in the right direction. And I think that will be far more constructive than what we’ve seen heretofore. I think there was a recognition on the part of the administration that what they were doing before wasn’t working — and that we’re going back to the drawing board.

Mike Makarski
External affairs lead
Engineers Labor Employer Cooperative, ELEC 825

If we’re talking about the 2019 Energy Master Plan, you can’t give it any more than zero, because the Governor’s Office just scrapped it. We have to acknowledge that.

The fact that we’re here having a vibrant discussion with labor, fuel merchants and an offshore wind developer, that’s leagues above where everybody else is. So, we’re at 10.

I think it’s a matter of understanding where we want to go and what the priorities are — and that was the actual failure of the Energy Master Plan. There were 100,000 priorities, and every one of them was a priority simultaneously. So, you can’t do everything all at once. So, if we’re going to do our focus on reducing our overall generation emissions, then we need to focus on Phase One of offshore wind, and we have to have a realistic conversation about the true zero-carbon emission-generating source, and that’s nuclear. We have to have a real conversation about whether we should be building more nuclear plants. 

The president of the United States was in Poland 48 hours ago and signing an agreement where Westinghouse is going to help Poland build a nuclear plant; we need to have those types of conversations here. Because, you know, we can build all the offshore wind, we can build all the solar that we think is possible. They are still intermittent sources until battery backup becomes a thing. And that’s a whole separate conversation.

Maddy Urbish
Head of government affairs and market strategy
Ørsted N.J.

I think we’re at least an 8 if we’re talking about clean energy goals and the focus on infrastructure.

I understand the comments from Mike and Eric. And I think a lot of them are really valid. I get it. But I think, from putting out aspirations and sending important policy signals, the state has really been a leader in this space. 

On the infrastructure side, it is challenging. We know it’s really hard to build infrastructure in this state, whether it’s for energy or anything else, it is just challenging. But, I see a lot of progress being made. Thanks to the award from the state, we’re investing over $100 million in the Port of Paulsboro to have a monopile facility there. Those are going to be real, long-term jobs — let alone the jobs that were created to construct the facility. 

Unlocking some of that economic investment and creating a domestic supply chain and New Jersey supply chain are the types of investments that do change communities and change people’s lives. New Jersey did a good job of being able to capture a lot of it early, because, when you get there early, you’re able to capture more.

We’re talking about energy transformation — and people are very much at the center of that. Being able to create real jobs, whether it’s manufacturing, engineering or construction firms, is a major economic driver. New Jersey is doing a great job of capturing a lot of that with the focus on job training and workforce development, and obviously the partnerships that we have with the trades. So, I think from that standpoint, New Jersey is really ahead of the pack and will hopefully continue to be.