As reported in Courier Post 8/19/11

 

New Jersey’s proposed energy policy calls for 22.5 percent  of the state’s power to come from renewable sources within 10 years  a goal that was the subject of heavy debate at a legislative hearing  attended by nearly 100 people Thursday.

Environmentalists said they want a 30 percent target, but business  leaders said that would drive their costs up.

State Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, defended the goal proposed  in Gov. Chris Christie’s draft energy master plan, calling it fair  and an “aggressive standard.”

Only eight states have higher renewable portfolio standards  than 22.5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy website.  The standards are state policies that require electricity providers  to obtain a minimum percentage of their power from renewable energy  resources, including the sun and wind, by a certain date.

After Jeff Tittel of the New Jersey Sierra Club made a case for  the higher benchmark, Beck said: “I’ve been told on many occasions  that’s a stretch for us. We know solar and wind are great sources,  but they’re not particularly reliable, and that’s a challenge.  There’s also a responsibility for us to be realistic to set goals  that can be met.”

New Jersey currently obtains less than 10 percent of its electricity  supply from renewable energy sources.

But Tittel noted that New Jersey has ramped up, with more than  10,000 solar arrays installed. Only California has more.

“We’re No. 2 in solar installations. We shouldn’t go back,”  said Tittel, who added that he fears Christie’s policy could jeopardize  funding for renewable energy projects for homeowners and small  businesses and affect more than 200 solar companies in New Jersey.

Corporate executives who testified said the current relative  high costs of solar energy should not be discounted.

Michael Egenton, senior vice president of government relations  for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, said the poor economy underscores  the need for an energy policy that loosens restrictions. He praised  Christie’s plan.

“I think you have to look at everything in context,” said Egenton,  who said money spent on higher energy costs by companies would lead  to less money spent on operations and investments. “You have to  look at the bigger picture.”

The joint legislative hearing took place at the Toms River town  hall and was co-chaired by Sen. Bob Smith and Assemblyman John McKeon,  both Democrats.

State energy regulators also are holding hearings this month  and will vote to adopt a final energy policy later this year.

The lawmakers on the panel received an admonishment from Janet  Tauro, an environmentalist who is co-chairwoman of Grandmothers,  Mothers and More for Energy Safety.

With the topic turned to energy conservation, Tauro made a common  sense suggestion:

“We can turn down the air conditioning and turn off lights,”  said Tauro, also of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.

Most of the panel members were in jackets or sweaters.

There was little reaction from the panel after Tauro, a Brick  resident, made her comment. Later the room became colder, and more  lights were turned on.

As reported in Huffington Post Green

 

Ask most people about the benefits of residential renewable energygeothermal, rooftop solar photovoltaic and solar thermal, and backyard wind turbines, primarily–and the response is usually the same: they are good for the environment, raise property value and lower or eliminate utility bills. While undoubtedly true, these responses present an incomplete picture of the benefits of distributed renewable energy. In certain instances, such as last week when a single ice storm left over 1 million homes and businesses in New England without power, a residential energy system can mean the difference between seeking shelter and being able to shelter others. Other times, particularly during peak demand, renewables stabilize the grid and lower costs for all utility customers.

The Grid Can Fail, and It’s Expensive When It Does
America’s electricity grid is an engineering marvel, but it is also old, outdated, overstrained and susceptible to failure from storms, terrorism, accidents and high energy demand. And when the grid fails, not only is the loss of power inconvenient, it is also dangerous and costly. For example, the 2003 blackout that stretched from Canada to New York was estimated to have an economic cost of “between $7 and $10 billion. . .due to food spoilage, lost production and overtime wages” as well as the cost of repairing and upgrading the affected parts of the grid. While the 2003 grid failure was one of the most extraordinary outages to hit the United States, smaller scale blackouts, particularly from storms and natural disasters, are rather common.

Advantages of Distributed Energy
Distributed energy has the distinct advantage of functioning regardless of the state of the electrical grid as a whole. What’s more, small, residential energy systems actually make the grid more stable by reducing peak demand–the times during which power lines strain to carry enough power to enough homes. Even better, reducing peak demand goes a long way towards reducing electricity prices. In fact, according to the Department of Energy “a 1% reduction in load during high peak periods can reduce wholesale electricity prices by 10%, and a 5% reduction in load can reduce peak prices by as much as 19%.” In other words, distributed wind, solar and geothermal can reduce the high demand for energy that often leads to outages and mitigate the impacts of blackouts when they do occur in a way that large scale renewable energy cannot. That is, even massive wind farms in the Midwest and solar concentrating plants in the Southwest are reliant on an energy grid to bring the power from where it is produced to where it is consumed. So while these large scale operations are necessary if we are to tackle rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions, it is imperative that the true advantages of residential scale, distributed energy be taken into full consideration as well.

Dreaming of Solar Rooftops
The day after last week’s ice storm in New England the sky was crisp and clear, and puddles of sunshine flooded rooftops across Providence, Rhode Island. Even though the blackout didn’t affect my hometown, I couldn’t help but think about the potential for millions of homes and businesses to be soaking up the sun to produce electricity and hot water (that can be used for showering as well as heating a home through radiant floor heating). The reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants are well documented, as well as the potential cost savings to the owner of a renewable energy system. However, the cost savings to society–in terms of jobs created from installation and manufacturing, stability provided to the grid, and avoided health care costs due to reduced pollution, to name a few–are not. In order to establish proper incentives for these systems, their internalized value must be estimated and built into subsidies.

Financing is Essential
Finally, as I argued last week, new and innovative mechanisms for financing the up-front cost of renewable energy and energy efficiency need to become policy priorities. After all, no matter how much time advocates spend touting the benefits of wind, solar, geothermal, and efficiency, if people can’t afford them, the benefits will never fully be realized. Fortunately, companies like Solar City, Sun Run, and Sun Edison, and cities such as Berkeley, San Francisco and Milwaukee, are blazing a path towards making renewables affordable and accessible to all.