Thursday, February 1, 2018

Murphy order blows away Christie's offshore wind stalling

Governor tells BPU to develop mechanism for ratepayers to subsidize offshore wind, a task it was originally assigned seven years ago

Tom Johnson reports
for NJ Spotlight:

Trying to energize a dormant offshore wind program, Gov. Phil Murphy yesterday signed an executive order telling a state agency to do what it was supposed to do seven years ago.

The order directs the state Board of Public Utilities to write regulations governing how utility customers will subsidize an effort to develop 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind generation along the Jersey coast by 2030.

The target is much more ambitious than the 1,100-megawatt goal in the state's current Energy Master Plan, a target nowhere close to being realized because Gov. Chris Christie's administration ignored implementing a 2010 law to promote offshore wind in New Jersey.

On the way to 100% clean
With the directive, Murphy is taking the first step in what is likely to be an arduous process to fulfill one of his primary campaign pledges to have a 100 percent clean-energy goal for New Jersey by 2050.

"We cannot allow for stagnation in this growing sector of our energy economy and we cannot lose sight of the tremendous opportunity for offshore wind at the Jersey Shore,'' Murphy said. "New Jersey is committed to growing our clean-energy sector, and offshore wind is at the crux of increasing this part of our economy.''

The move drew enthusiastic response from clean-energy advocates who have been frustrated by delays in implementing the 2010 law.

"There's no reason for a seven year delay,'' said Doug O'Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. "For New Jersey to move forward on clean energy, offshore wind needs to be a critical component.''

The Offshore Wind Economic Development Act, signed with great fanfare nearly eight years ago, sought to develop 1,100 megawatts of generation capacity by 2020. Christie, however, soured on the prospect, worried the cost would boost electric bills in a state already saddled with high energy costs.

The administration, at one point, sought to write rules that would allow offshore wind developers to recoup some of their costs through ratepayer subsidies, but the process stalled and was dropped even though the rules were supposed to be adopted within six months of the law's signing. Without the subsidies, developers say Wall Street will never line up the financing for the projects.

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