Murphy’s energy legacy: Three thought-leaders weigh in

A setback. A disappointment. A crushing blow.

When Ørsted announced earlier this fall that it was stopping its Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 projects, many tried to put what it meant into perspective for the clean energy efforts in the state.

More than that — what it meant for Gov. Phil Murphy’s legacy in the sector, something he seemingly has pushed since Day One of his administration.

To some extent, the decision fueled ROI-NJ’s recent webinar: “The Energy Transition: An ROI-NJ discussion on flexible energy systems powering the future.”

During the event, we asked our three experts what they see happening in the energy sector during the remaining two years of the Murphy administration.

Here are their responses:

Barb Blumenthal, research director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation:

“The interesting thing about this whole debate about buildings and electrification is that there is not yet a single policy in place that I know of that has advanced building electrification. It’s been a conversation. It’s been planning. We’re getting warm, we’re getting closer. But what’s happening in New Jersey is people are adopting this without any policy support. And, now that the federal government is putting $100 billion into building electrification, it’s going to change anyway.

“So, what is going to happen in New Jersey? I think that we’re going to solidify progress on building electrification, we’re going to see that happen in the coming year or two. And, largely, it’s going to be the politics of overburdened communities asking for this. Environmental justice communities want to see cleaner air quality inside their homes.”

Eric DeGesero, president of Edge Consulting and executive vice president of New Jersey Fuel Merchants Association:

“I’m looking at the people’s branch of government, the one which has been conspicuously absent from the entire debate on buildings, entirely absent on the electrification of vehicles.

“The interesting thing about what the governor did in terms of adopting the EV regulations is that he’s hanging his hat on reed-thin federal authority that California has that is in very serious legal jeopardy. And, should California lose, then there will be no EV mandate, because the governor stated in the DEP regs that New Jersey will not go forward on this on its own. And, why is that? Because the Legislature repealed the authority that they previously granted the governor on EVs when Chris Christie was a governor.

“If we are going to radically transform the state, that’s the Legislature’s job — and they can certainly do it … as they have on wind, on solar, on EV subsidies, on the monopile facility. On everything else in clean energy, there’s a Public Law number with a chapter next to it. Why that isn’t the case for (electrification mandates), the thing that is the most intrusive and the most expensive to us individually, is beyond me.”

Eric Miller, director, New Jersey energy policy, climate and clean energy at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

“When he leaves office, he will have a great legacy as an environmental and clean energy champion in New Jersey — with or without Ørsted or with or without wind turbines out there in the ocean. We’ve done a lot since the passage of the Clean Energy Act in 2018 to advance electrification planning, energy efficiency, electric vehicles, clean energy generation. And I think that’s all to be applauded. And it’s had a big impact.

“I think that momentum is going to continue forward as more folks realize that a lot of the jobs in New Jersey are connected to the clean energy industry. We’re the fourth-fastest growing clean energy industry in the country. The clean energy industry has grown at I think about two and a half times faster than the rest of the New Jersey economy. It’s where the jobs are going. It’s where the businesses are going. There’s a lot of companies that are starting to enter New Jersey, because they see a more favorable regulatory environment in that space. And I think it’s going to take a couple of years to see that benefit, but it’s definitely going to be there.”