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New Jersey Future Statement on Energy Master Plan

June 8, 2011

New Jersey Future reviewed the draft 2011 Energy Master Plan, released on June 7, with an eye toward the plan’s land-use implications. How we plan and use our land affects how we develop, manage and use energy.  For instance, planning and concentrating development allows more cost-effective transmission of energy and, in many cases, lessens demand, e.g., by reducing the distance people need to travel to work, shop and play.  Likewise, how we develop, manage and use energy affects how efficiently and effectively we use our land.  For instance, encouraging increased use of non-renewable, cheap energy, e.g. gasoline, can drive suburban sprawl.

The draft Energy Master Plan makes some positive statements about where the state should steer renewable energy generation, but falls short in making the link between land use and energy by virtually ignoring the transportation sector, one of the largest segments of energy consumption.  The plan also includes several provisions that would weaken the state’s commitment to a green economy and a green future.

New Jersey is unquestionably a national leader in solar installations.  In large part, this has been driven by subsidies that make it economical to install solar systems.  The draft Energy Master Plan correctly points out that oversized solar facilities should not be placed on agricultural lands.  It also recommends, appropriately, that subsidies should be directed to solar facilities that are sited in places that currently have disturbed land, e.g., rooftops, parking lots, brownfields and landfills.  It will be important to see how these incentives play out, however, since solar facilities are not necessarily the highest and best use for all brownfield and landfill locations; a prime redevelopment site next to a train station that also happens to be a brownfield is just one example.

Transportation, specifically the private automobile, is by far the largest consumer of energy in New Jersey, and is also the fastest-growing. Yet the draft Energy Master Plan, whose purpose is to lay out a strategic vision for the state’s energy use, scarcely mentions it. When it does, the plan emphasizes reliance on new technologies, e.g., electric cars and clean fuels, to reduce energy consumption from the transportation sector. Although numerous studies have shown that these technologies alone will not be nearly enough to reduce transportation energy consumption, because they will be outpaced by the growth in vehicle miles traveled (VMT), there is no mention in the plan of reducing transportation demand.

The 2008 version of the Energy Master Plan, while acknowledging the significant role the transportation sector plays in New Jersey’s energy portfolio, opted not to address this sector, leaving it instead for the Department of Environmental Protection’s Global Warming Response Act Recommendation report. That report, which was released in 2009, does address transportation demand in detail, acknowledging that “because there is a direct correlation between sprawling land development patterns and personal vehicle use …  it will be difficult for New Jersey to meet its statewide GHG limits without a fundamental shift in the State’s historic development patterns.” The DEP plan makes a series of recommendations to do just that, including encouraging more redevelopment, focusing growth around transit and doubling transit ridership by 2050. The plan, however, has lain dormant since 2009, and no significant actions have been taken to implement any of its recommendations regarding transportation.

When Governor Christie announced his intention to pull out of the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) last week, New Jersey Future lamented that it signaled a change in direction away from the administration’s stated support for a green future.  The draft Energy Master Plan reinforces this disturbing trend.  The plan reflects a short-term view rather than a long-term vision, focusing more on increasing supply and cutting costs than on reducing demand and securing a sustainable energy future.  Its recommendation to reduce incentives for renewable energy generation and energy-efficiency programs seriously undermines this administration’s commitment to a green economy, and diminishes New Jersey’s role as a national leader in attracting investment in renewable energy. These are precisely the wrong signals to be sending at a time when New Jersey is looking to create quality, high-paying jobs in this expanding field.

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