GSI report: Energy Master Plan goals are idealistic, but not realistic

Report, by energy expert, aims to offer reality check on EMP

Garden State Initiative, in a report it created with energy policy expert Mark Mills, said the goals in the state’s Energy Master Plan are not realistic.

The report, released last week at GSI’s Annual Policy Forum in New Brunswick, said Gov. Phil Murphy’s clean-energy goals cannot be reached under present circumstances.

Mills, the director of the National Center for Energy Analytics and a faculty fellow at Northwestern University’s School of Engineering, raised pointed questions about whether New Jersey can produce the electricity it needs while relying almost entirely on wind and solar technologies in time to meet the 2035 mandate — and whether doing so would have the desired outcome of reducing the state’s contribution to global CO2 emissions.

“Given that New Jersey currently obtains over 90% of all the state’s energy from hydrocarbons, 98% of vehicles on the roads use petroleum and 85% of the state’s residential homes and commercial buildings are heated with natural gas or propane fuel,” he said. “Reducing those metrics to zero in just over 10 years will have enormous economic and social consequences — punishing current and future New Jerseyans who are least able to afford higher energy costs and creating disincentives for industries and businesses to locate or remain in the state.”

GSI President Audrey Lane said the report spells out inconvenient truths.

“Gov. Murphy’s mandate that New Jersey attain 100% clean energy by 2035 is a laudable goal, but it’s not realistic,” she said. “The bottom line is that the goals set forth in the N.J. EMP are purely aspirational and our report painstakingly makes that clear.

“The unrealistic nature of implementing this plan doesn’t even take into account the price tag — which we estimate at a whopping $40 billion — and would drive even more people and jobs out of the state.”

The report offered what it considered to be reality checks on seven strategies found in the Energy Master Plan:

  • EMP strategy No. 1: Reducing energy consumption and emissions in transportation

Reality: Total life cycle analyses point to small, possibly nonexistent reductions in CO2 emissions associated with mass deployment of electric vehicles.

  • EMP strategy No. 2: Accelerating deployment of renewable energy and distributed energy resources

Reality: Greater deployment of wind and solar correlates, everywhere, with increased cost of electricity.

  • EMP strategy No. 3: Energy efficiency and conservation to reduce peak demand

Reality: In an unrestricted economy, in nearly all applications, increased energy efficiency is associated with an overall net increase in energy demand.

  • EMP strategy No. 4: Reduce building energy use

Reality: The future potential for energy savings is now far less and will take more time and cost more than in the past.

  • EMP strategy No. 5: Decarbonizing and modernizing New Jersey’s energy system

Reality: The track record for “decarbonizing” energy systems shows very small changes in overall societal carbon-intensity, and far higher consumer costs.

  • EMP strategy No. 6: Community energy planning and action in underserved communities

Reality: Policymakers should keep in mind a basic tenet for low-income citizens and communities, i.e., high energy costs are destructive.

  • EMP strategy No. 7: Expand the clean energy innovation economy

 Reality: Many proposed “clean energy” innovation policies are antithetical to other innovation policies and objectives.

Lane said the report offers a realistic view of the future.

“This report provides a reality check on aspirational policy,” she said. “New Jersey residents, taxpayers and business owners need to understand how state policies will affect them now and in the future.

“We see this report as part of fulfilling that part of our mission and stoking a more honest and robust debate about the future of energy in the state.”

To read the report, click here.