Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Legislation in NJ prepares for a post-Christie energy era

A change in administration could offer an opportunity to reshape New Jersey’s clean-energy profile, from electric cars to distributed generation

bob smith roundtable
Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex)
Tom Johnson reports
for NJ Spotlight:
In a bid to reshape energy policy in the state, a multi-bill package is being pushed to promote electric cars, enhance energy conservation, and study the possibility of giving financial incentives to nuclear power as a carbon-free source of electricity.
The legislative package introduced yesterday by Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), the chairman of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee, would overhaul the state’s energy priorities, pushing policy toward ramping up efforts to improve energy efficiency and away from a reliance on fossil fuels.
Smith’s package incorporates many issues long advocated by clean-energy advocates, including adoption of an energy-efficiency portfolio, which would require utilities to curb energy usage by customers. The policy, adopted by many other states, is of concern to utilities because it ends up trimming their revenue. Smith has yet to introduce that bill, saying it is “under construction.’’
He also is working on a proposed constitutional amendment that would phase out over a five-year period the diversion of clean energy funds to other purposes. The practice, increasingly relied on by the Christie administration, has siphoned off more than $1 billion from a clean-energy fund financed by a surcharge on customers’ electric and gas bills.
For instance, Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year would allocate $152 million out of the clean-energy fund, primarily to pay the state’s and New Jersey Transit’s energy costs. In the past, the Legislature has griped about the diversions, but approved them.
The package also would propose a couple of measures aimed at installing smart thermostats — one would require the devices be put in new homes; the other would offer financial credits to install them in existing homes. Smart thermostats can lower energy use and bills for customers. A separate resolution in the package urges the state to take steps to have at least a half-million homes in New Jersey outfitted with smart thermostats by 2023.
The legislation also would direct the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the agency responsible for implementing energy policy, to undertake a study of several emerging issues.

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