Guhl-Sadovy pledges to continue BPU’s work in battling climate change — and touts economic benefits of doing so

Calling it a bittersweet moment, newly appointed president praises her predecessor (Fiordaliso) and promises to continue his vision after his unexpected passing

Christine Guhl-Sadovy, the newly appointed president of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, offered great praise for her predecessor, the late Joe Fiordaliso — and a promise to continue the energy work he long championed — Tuesday at an all-day energy conference sponsored by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

Guhl-Sadovy, selected to succeed Fiordaliso, who died unexpectedly Sept. 6, told the crowd that the longtime former head had the state’s energy efforts going in the right direction — one that not only would help the state transition to clean energy, but do so in a way that would bring great economic benefit.

Much of that benefit is connected to the offshore wind industry, which is developing in the U.S.

“Think about what that means for New Jersey to have an entirely new industry, how being on the forefront of innovation has boosted our economy in the past,” she said. “We have to stop the misinformation about offshore wind and focus on the facts and the benefits this industry is going to bring to New Jersey.”

Guhl-Sadovy said the New Jersey Wind Port is poised to be a manufacturing center not only for New Jersey projects, but for all the projects in the region, potentially generating an estimated $500 million in economic benefits to our state each year — including high-paying jobs.

Guhl-Sadovy said more than 53,000 New Jersey workers have clean energy jobs — a number that grew at the fourth-highest rate in the nation in 2022.

While she pitched the economic benefits of clean energy, Guhl-Sadovy also told the audience the economic cost of not acting. She said it already is evident, noting:

  • Heavy rains cause flood damage to homes and businesses;
  • Floods cause lost revenue to businesses that have to close, notably in places such as Hoboken and Asbury Park;
  • Insurance rates go up for homeowners, who now need flood insurance;
  • More frequent power outages require utility investments needed to prevent outages;
  • More bad air quality days for local residents lead to more visits to the doctor and hospitals.

Guhl-Sadovy, who once served as Fiordaliso’s chief of staff, was just appointed to the commission in June. She told the audience that her elevation to the top role was bittersweet, noting the invitation to speak at the conference was originally extended to Fiordaliso.

Joe Fiordaliso. (File photo)

She said she intends to honor Fiordaliso by continuing his efforts.

“I’m really honored that the governor put his faith in me to carry on his legacy on advancing the clean energy economy,” she said.

In addition to offshore wind and efforts involving electric vehicles, she specifically noted the state’s efforts in community solar — and its far-reaching impact, saying it has been a national leader for how to make an energy accessible to low- and moderate-income residents and lower their energy costs.

“I really don’t know how anyone wouldn’t support that,” she said.

Support for one project by one state is not enough to curb climate change, Guhl-Sadovy said.

“These are major issues that won’t be solved if only one town acts, or one state or even one country,” she said. “New Jersey has to do its part and that’s what Gov. (Phil) Murphy’s administration is about — doing our part to mitigate climate change while advancing the clean energy economy.”

Guhl-Sadovy said the costs of change will be steep.

Indeed, electric vehicle infrastructure is proving to be expensive, and the offshore wind industry has been dealing with increased costs due to supply-chain issues and changing clean energy priorities globally after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Solar always has had return on investment issues.

In addition, new potential sources of clean energy — including various uses of hydrogen, which the state is championing — are years (and dollars) away from potential implementation, too.

Despite this, Guhl-Sadovy said the time to act is now — when there are numerous government supports available.

“For those people who say we are moving too fast, or being too ambitious, my first response is always: ‘We can’t afford to wait,’” she said. “But that’s not because only the impacts of climate change are already impacting our daily lives.

“We have an opportunity with funding from the federal government to offset costs in New Jersey with ratepayers. Why wouldn’t we want to take full advantage of that?”

Guhl-Sadovy made a call for unity in the efforts.

“We need to keep this progress going. After all, the clean energy transition should be for all New Jerseyans — everyone deserves to live in an efficient home, pay for affordable utilities and have the opportunity to work in a job that they can be proud of,” she said.

“How we deliver these opportunities will not be decided through one-sided mandates from the state, but through a cross-sector stakeholder process that accounts for the priorities of utility providers, industry and labor.”