New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan, referred to as the EMP, calls for the state to transition to 100% clean energy by 2050 using wind and solar power while shifting away from natural gas and other types of energy sources that contribute to climate change.

Ever since Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled the state’s EMP in 2020, critics have loudly complained there has been no comprehensive review or discussion of what residential and business customers will wind up paying in order to transition to a 100% clean-energy economy in the years ahead.

At a New Jersey Board of Public Utilities meeting on Wednesday, the Energy Master Plan Ratepayer Impact Study was presented, and the BPU voted to accept the contents of the report, but many questions remain.

How much are we talking about?

BPU President Joe Fiordaliso said while the impact study lays out a roadmap for future energy costs, “this is such a long-range plan it’s very difficult to pinpoint the exact amount it’s going to cost each ratepayer.”

He said as clean energy programs evolve, “costs in many cases are going to come down, and to put an exact amount of dollars on what it’s going to cost each individual ratepayer is very, very difficult.”

He pointed out New Jersey will be getting federal funding for different clean energy programs but “we don’t know what that amount is, we don’t know how much New Jersey is going to get.”

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It depends on what you buy

According to BPU executive policy counsel Abe Silverman, trying to figure out how New Jersey’s energy master plan will impact you will depend on whether you make capital investments in clean energy technology, like buying an electric vehicle, installing solar panels or converting your home from natural gas to electric.

He said the impact study compared what utility bills will be in 2030 compared to 2020 rates for low and higher income residents, smaller and larger businesses, and “it’s about a 10 to 20% increase for customers who stay status quo, and the potential for about a 10 to 20% decrease for customers that make the investments.”

During the meeting, BPU economist Ben Witherell pointed out the cost of capital investments for things like energy-efficient appliances, heating, electric vehicles, and residential rooftop solar systems were not included in the impact study because they are “not a requirement or mandate for state energy policies and are therefore voluntary and do not directly impact customer utility rates.”

Silverman said the report does not factor in how much Jersey residents will have to spend on clean energy technology investments because “it’s very difficult to say what are those things going to cost in the future, particularly as the state rolls out its own incentive policies and obviously the feds through the Inflation Reduction Act roll out their policies.”

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Look at both sides

Fiordaliso noted “you have to look at both sides of the balance sheet, are there costs, yes, are there economic benefits, absolutely.”

He added, “What is the cost of us doing nothing, what is the cost, future generations will find out if we do nothing.”

Silverman stressed additional reports will be issued going forward on specific clean energy costs and incentive programs.

According to the Affordable Energy for New Jersey, it will cost more than $500 billion to meet the Murphy administration’s goal of 50% clean energy by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

The group states while a 100% clean energy economy will eventually lower costs, Jersey’s EMP would essentially force Garden State residents to completely electrify their homes and businesses and get an electric vehicle, which could wind up costing a family of 4 more than $200,000.

Fiordaliso said those projections are false.

“There are critics out there who don’t believe in climate change, who put things on social media that will frighten the hell out of the general public. Our intent is to ensure that we have a clean environment for future generations,” he said.

Legislation, A2937 has been introduced by Assemblyman Hal Wirths, R-Sussex, that would require a series of public hearings on the costs and benefits of transitioning to electric heating systems.

A measure, S4133 that prohibits the state from mandating the use of electric heating systems has already been passed by the New Jersey State Senate.

Environmental leaders, including Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley, have argued the cost of not transitioning to a clean-energy economy would wind up spiking costs and pollution levels in the near future because of the effects of climate change.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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