Beck confronts Sierra Club resistance to new Energy Master Plan

TOMS RIVERS – The leading environmental lobbyist in New Jersey said he had to wait through nine hours of administration hearings on the governor’s Energy Master Plan to have his voice heard, but it was heard today at the joint legislative hearing on the state’s energy blueprint.

Sierra Club state director Jeff Tittel complained today that over the course of two Board of Public Utilities meetings, he and other Sierra Club members were shuffled to the back of speaker lists – which the BPU denies – but today he told the Senate and Assembly environmental committees that rolling back the renewable energy goals for the state from 30 percent to 22.5 percent not only creates a less challenging goal, but “undercuts the programs that we have in place.”

He said sub-goals like attaining 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity are “very doable numbers.” He said the state is on target to exceed its goal of a 10 percent solar energy supply.

“We’re above where we were supposed to be on the steps getting there,” Tittel said.

A change to societal benefits charges would also increase New Jersey’s reliance on out-of-state power production. “Instead of that money staying in New Jersey,” he said, “We’ll be sending that money to Houston…or Pennsylvania,” for oil, coal, and natural gas energy. “It’s either going to come from wind and solar…or it’s going to come from out-of-state coal and out-of-state gas.”

Democratic lawmakers said recently that they will attempt to restore the 30 percent renewable goal through legislation, which Tittel encouraged them to do.

The state is a national leader in solar energy, Tittel said.

“We have the ability now to move the state forward,” he said about solar energy, while creating jobs, lowering energy costs, and improving the environment.

State Sen. Jennifer Beck, (R-12), of Red Bank, disagreed with Tittel on the solar statistics, but agreed that the state is succeeding.

She said the 22.5 percent goal “still makes New Jersey the seventh highest standard in the nation,” ahead of all states that do not have the luxury of hydroelectric generation.

Tittel quipped, “We’re number two in solar (in the nation) and we shouldn’t go to number eight.”

Beck said, “It’s an extremely aggressive standard still. There are questions about our ability to even meet 22.5 (percent), let alone 30 (percent)…We know solar and wind are great renewable energies, but they’re not particularly reliable.”

The master plan will be subject to one more BPU public hearing, a continuation of the previous Trenton meeting now scheduled for Aug. 24 at 1 p.m. in the Statehouse.

“It may not be perfect – it probably needs some tweaking – that’s why we have these hearings,” Beck said, but the state needs realistic goals and reliable renewable energy sources going forward.

Earlier coverage: 

Beck confronts Sierra Club resistance to new Energy Master Plan