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New Jersey Can And Should Go Big on Clean, Renewable Energy

Statement from Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley on the pending votes in the New Jersey Legislature on the proposed nuclear subsidy bill and the clean, renewable energy bills, which is slated for a full vote in the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly this afternoon.

“We need to be bold and bullish on clean energy, fully harnessing the power of renewable technologies like wind and solar power. This is an opportunity to fully pivot off the inertia of the Christie era and once make New Jersey a leader in the clean, renewable energy revolution. The attempt to prop up outdated nuclear facilities creates an unsustainable and potentially unending burden on ratepayers. We support the transition to clean, renewable energy because we shouldn’t be subjecting ourselves to continuing to provide massive subsidies to currently profitable, outdated nuclear facilities. Instead, we should be actively planning for their retirement as we ramp up clean, renewable energy to replace this baseload power. We strongly support the 50% clean, renewable energy portfolio standard by 2030 and the aggressive benchmarks that will be required to allow us to ramp up the transition to a renewable future, and we want to ensure that this transition is not undermined. We support the transition to clean, renewable energy because it would mitigate the impact from extractive industries in both the fossil fuel and nuclear industries, including the impacts of drilling, air pollution, creation of radioactive waste and water pollution impacts. As a coastal state that is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy, extreme weather events and coastal flooding are real for New Jersey and are constant reminders on why we can’t slow walk the transition to a renewable energy future that provides clean, healthy and safe energy.

The nuclear bailout bill is Trenton at its worst –this is a bad deal for state ratepayers and for our environment. The nuclear industry is coming with hands out in Trenton and is putting its hands into ratepayers pockets to the potential tune of $300 million a year. Instead of pursuing financial transparency to ensure that PSEG truly needs a subsidy, the Legislature has worked to keep the Ratepayer Advocate out of the BPU proceedings. The nuclear bailout bill will create an unending process of subsidies for profitable plants with no sunsets, no annual review, and no guarantee of the inclusion of the Ratepayer Advocate, and no acknowledgement of the billions already spent to bailout these facilities and subsidize their potential liabilities. This bailout will make it harder to transition to a clean, renewable energy future and we urge the Legislature to put the brakes on this bailout train​.

PSEG has sold this bailout as a necessary step to protect our environmental goals but hasn’t focused on the environmental damage of these facilities on the Delaware River estuary or the lost opportunity cost of making investments in clean energy. This bailout will hinder the transition to a clean, renewable energy future. We need to move forward to expand our renewable portfolio standard and transition our solar energy market and expand off-shore wind. We have concerns that the expansion of our clean, renewable energy goals to 50% by 2030 will be hindered by allowing the BPU to undercut those goals through a restrictive cost cap that will hamper both our off-shore wind and solar goals. The expansion of clean, renewable energy will ultimately allow us to replace the plant’s power but bailing out profitable plants will make that transition a lot harder.

We strongly oppose the most recent version of the nuclear bailout bill. The bill would seriously put in peril your renewable energy agenda and virtually guarantee that the plant owners will obtain massive subsidies without the requisite showing of financial need. The bill is universally unpopular with New Jersey’s residents and businesses, as has been repeatedly expressed at multiple legislative hearings. We have vast concerns with the potential $3 billion nuclear bailout for facilities that are still profitable. Instead, we should be investing that money to improve the quality of life for New Jerseyans for years to come through investments in renewable technologies.  The proposed nuclear bill would subsidize the uneconomic nuclear plants with insufficient accountability. We continue to have severe reservations with the language, lack of financial transparency, and the process surrounding the Zero Emission Credit that is in the legislation

The legislation as written prevents the BPU or anyone else from determining whether financial need truly exists.  The bill hamstrings any meaningful review by the Board of Public Utilities.  Consumers will bear the cost of $300 million in annual subsidies to nuclear plants, without adequate review by the NJ Division of Rate Counsel and the public to verify that such support is warranted. A transparent, traditional administrative process, as used whenever a utility seeks an increase in rates, should be employed to prevent a scenario where PSEG’s financial assertions cannot be challenged and independently verified.

We also would like to see the true value of renewables that help lower the cost for ratepayers by lowering peak demand is incorporated into the clean energy legislation. We should account for the true value that renewable energy technologies bring to the electric grid, not just their upfront costs. As we build to a 100% clean, renewable future, we should require the BPU to begin a revision of the state Energy Master Plan to outline the strategies to put New Jersey on a path to 100% clean, renewable energy. As part of this process, BPU should include sections in the Energy Master Plan for the replacement of the nuclear facilities upon retirement with renewable energy.”

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