What now? New Jersey has to hit the reset button on its energy policy — and get it right - Garden State Initiative


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What now? New Jersey has to hit the reset button on its energy policy — and get it right

Regina Egea   |   November 8, 2023   |   As Seen In Gannett/USA Today Network


Depending on where you stand when it comes to offshore wind development, the recent stunning announcement by the Danish power company Ørsted that it was abandoning its Ocean Wind 1 and Ocean Wind 2 projects off the Jersey Shore, at a loss of $5.6 billion, was a moment of either great relief or grave disappointment. I am proud to say that Garden State Initiative has been one of the leading skeptics of the economic and fiscal viability of the project and has released numerous opinion pieces and reports on the topic, the most recent of which was published just over a month ago.

With an unusually high number of marine mammals washing ashore this year, the rise of grassroots citizen groups organizing marches, protests and rallies, and the state’s legislative elections, controversy around the project has grown considerably, especially in the past calendar year. The reflexive responses and denials from both invested government entities and a surprising number of self-proclaimed pro-environment groups only fueled those embers. In fact, a Stockton University poll from September indicated that popular support for offshore wind had dropped from 80% in 2019 to just 50% today.

A blow for Phil Murphy

With a growing number of Democrats in Trenton joining with Republicans looking to pump the brakes on the project, Gov. Phil Murphy and seemingly compromised environmental groups have increasingly been on an ever-shrinking island in terms of support. It’s impossible to ignore that the news on the project was a serious blow to the governor’s ambitious — we believe overly so — Energy Master Plan calling for New Jersey to be a 100% clean energy state by 2035. It also has impacts on the Biden administration’s energy goals, as New Jersey was a bit of a canary in the coal mine for future “green” energy projects around the country.

Murphy is sincere, but he has been overly aggressive in committing our state’s resources without due diligence and transparency. The recent developments present an opportunity for New Jersey to chart a new, more affordable, more realistic and still environmentally conscious path forward when it comes to the future of energy policy in our state.

Focus on three principles

In our view, that new path forward must focus on three key principles: reliability, affordability and transparency. One of the death knells of this current project is that it delivered none of these.

To that end, we would apply a simple test. Any future energy policy or plan must be able to withstand rigorous inspection — and be forced to answer for how it will make our notoriously expensive state more affordable for working families, seniors and businesses looking to settle or grow here. We simply cannot afford a repeat of the state’s Board of Public Utilities doling out billions of dollars in contracts and subsidies to fund the development of alternative energy without the faintest idea of what it would cost, or its impact on ratepayers or taxpayers.

Rather, this time, collaboration and compromise among elected officials in both parties, the state ratepayer advocate, business groups, labor unions, environmentalists and residents in every corner of the state need to be a priority. Together, we can find solutions that make our state more prosperous, while also ensuring a healthier environment.

Regina Egea is president of the Garden State Initiative.