The earth supports human life yet it has limited sources of energy.
NJBIZ hosted a panel discussion on energy on June 25, at the DoubleTree by Hilton Somerset Hotel in Somerset. After the discussion, NJBIZ asked the panelists what each foresees as the worst-case scenario if humans are not wise in using energy, including solar and wind.
Panelist Kate Gibbs is deputy director of Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative 825, a collaborative trust that represents more than 7,200 engineers. It also invests millions of dollars to train apprentices, according to Gibbs.
“It is in our best interest to make sure we move forward and have a global sustainable energy plan,” Gibbs said. “But New Jersey cannot do this alone. While it is great to be a leader, we need to make sure that we are not disadvantaging ourselves.”
The reason why we are at the forefront is because we have to be at the forefront. We are also at the forefront of the damage.
Brian Lipman, litigation manager at the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, represents rate-payers and argues against rate increases. He cited Superstorm Sandy, which struck New Jersey in 2012, as causing widespread flooding, power outages and ruined houses.
“The reason why we are at the forefront is because we have to be at the forefront. We are also at the forefront of the damage,” Lipman said. “We need to take care of ourselves. If we make our electricity too expensive, then industries are going to move out. One of the steel plants in Perth Amboy or South Amboy left because electricity is too expensive in New Jersey.”
David Weinstein, a lawyer at law firm Archer & Greiner, specializes in public and private financing and alternative energy development.
“Whether you believe in climate change or not, there is definitely a change occurring around us,” Weinstein said. “We owe it to future generations to make the planet sustainable for human life.”
Frank Felder, director of the Rutgers Energy Institute, moderated the discussion. Felder is a former nuclear engineer and submarine officer in the U.S. Navy.
Achieving goals through energy efficiency
He said the Legislature passed clean energy legislation in May 2018. He also said the Board of Public Utilities approved zero-emission credits to existing nuclear power plants, and its draft master plan was released on June 10.
According to Gibbs, “New Jersey cannot fight global warming by itself,” and she added that “New Jersey is leading the fight.” She also believes there is a lot of opportunity to invest in our ports. “I think we need to support a diverse portfolio of energy. This energy future does not happen if the government is not working with the private sector. If you support solar and wind, support natural gas,” she stated.
“When you look at the Board of Public Utilities, all these projects are great and sound wonderful. We are the most expensive state in the country in which to do business. Rate-payers and businesses can only bear so much. I think we still need natural gas to make that happen,” Gibbs said.
“My members work on important infrastructure projects in New Jersey: advocating for a diverse energy portfolio, reducing emissions and costs,” Gibbs said. “Our infrastructure is important to the economy of New Jersey.”
Lipman likes to see a cost-benefit analysis as a starting point on proposed energy projects. “Anytime you see utilities seeking a rate increase, we are fighting to minimize it,” Lipman said. “Storage is key to clean energy.”
“We understand ratepayers are going to pay more for clean energy,” Lipman said. “The cheaper way to achieve our goals is through energy efficiency. … A lot of this is being foisted on the ratepayers.”
Blowin’ in the wind
Offshore wind was another topic discussed at the panel, with both New York and New Jersey developing offshore wind in federal waters off the coast of New Jersey to build a transmission line.
“My fear is offshore wind megawatts will end up in New York [rather than New Jersey],” Lipman said.
Weinstein thinks offshore wind is going to help port towns develop and become vibrant.
“The belief behind the master plan is that we will all benefit from it,” he said. “My biggest concern is that it is in isolation.… The goals of the environmental protection side do not get the benefit they try to achieve. Our federal government is not in lockstep with us as a state. At the same time, we have a heavy reliance on fossil fuels. Natural gas keeps your rates low. It would be double what they are without natural gas.”
“Look across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe, wind power brings the cost of construction down,” Weinstein said. “Costs will continue to come done. The way we do subsidies in the United States is different than how they do it in Europe. … You are going to get offshore wind.”