TRENTON –The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee today released two bills designed to advance the cause of long-term planning for clean energy in New Jersey.
One, A2887, would require the state’s Energy Master Plan to specifically address long-term capacity and infrastructure planning. The bill also would require the Energy Master Plan to include specific benchmarks to measure progress toward achieving its long-term objectives. It passed 5-0-2 with panel Republicans abstaining.
The other, A2888, would establish the Office of Clean Energy, which currently is a division of the Board of Public Utilities. The office would coordinate the state’s programs to improve energy distribution and the use of non-polluting energy sources.
The office and all of its programs are to be funded through the societal benefits charge, as the office is currently funded. It also passed 5-0-2.
Committee Chairman Upendra J. Chivukula is a prime sponsor of both bills.
“Hurricane Sandy, a storm that devastated New Jersey, underscores the urgency of slowing climate change, which scientists say is a major factor in the severe weather conditions that we have been experiencing,” he said.
“It is unacceptable that in the past three years, nearly $600 million in clean energy funds have been raided. These funds, that are generated from ratepayers, are intended to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide, the main cause of global warming pollution.”
Instead, Chivukula, D-17, Somerset, said, the administration has used these dedicated funds for other purposes. At the same time, New Jersey remains a “net’’ importer of electricity from other states.
He said that after Hurricane Irene in 2011, BPU recommended better communications among utilities and other agencies, among other things. But after seeing what happened during super storm Sandy, it remains unclear which recommendations have been implemented successfully, Chivukula said.
Jeff Tittel of the N.J. Sierra Club told the committee that Sandy showed that “We need to start reforming the system we have. We need to look at capacity and supply” and other issues such as more renewable energy and better planning.
Committee member Donna Simon, R-16, Flemington, expressed concern over the bills’ provisions for benchmarks and timetables and whether the state will be able to afford such benchmarks when they fall due.