Murphy unveils energy master plan, signs exec. order directing regulatory reform

TRENTON, NJ — Gov. Phil Murphy has unveiled the state’s energy master plan, which outlines key strategies to reach the administration’s goal of 100-percent clean energy by 2050. In May 2018, Murphy’s Executive Order No. 28 directed the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, in partnership with other state agencies, to develop this statewide clean energy plan and shift away from energy production that contributes to climate change.

To underpin the initiatives in the energy master plan, on Jan. 27 Murphy signed Executive Order No. 100, directing the Department of Environmental Protection to make sweeping regulatory reforms, branded as Protecting Against Climate Threats, to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. With this executive action, New Jersey is the first state in the nation to pursue such a comprehensive and aggressive suite of climate change regulations, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“New Jersey faces an imminent threat from climate change, from rising seas that threaten our coastline to high asthma rates in some of our most vulnerable communities due to fossil fuel pollution,” Murphy said. “Successfully implementing the strategies outlined in the energy master plan will drastically reduce New Jersey’s demand for fossil fuels, reduce our carbon emissions, greatly improve local air quality and related health impacts. The energy master plan, together with PACT, the most sweeping set of climate regulations in the country, represents a seismic shift in our energy policy. In the absence of climate change leadership in Washington, these reforms will help propel New Jersey to 100-percent clean energy by 2050.”

To fulfill the Global Warming Response Act mandate of reducing state greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent below 2006 levels, the energy master plan comprehensively addresses New Jersey’s energy system, including electricity generation, transportation and buildings, and their associated greenhouse gas emissions and related air pollutants. The plan defines 100-percent clean energy by 2050 as 100-percent carbon-neutral electricity generation and maximum electrification of the transportation and building sectors, which are the greatest carbon emission producing sectors in the state, to meet or exceed the GWRA mandates. The plan is the first of a series of steps to ensure that New Jersey generates, uses and manages its energy supply in a way that is consistent with economic, climate and societal demands. 

The plan outlines the following seven key strategies and includes an implementation plan that lays out next steps and timelines:

  • Strategy 1: Reducing energy consumption and emissions from the transportation sector, including encouraging electric vehicle adoption, electrifying transportation systems, and leveraging technology to reduce emissions and miles traveled.
  • Strategy 2: Accelerating deployment of renewable energy and distributed energy resources by developing offshore wind; community solar, a successor solar incentive program; solar thermal; and energy storage. It also involves adopting new market structures to embrace clean energy development and contain costs, opening electric distribution companies’ circuits for distributed energy resources, and developing low-cost loans or financing for distributed energy resources.
  • Strategy 3: Maximizing energy efficiency and conservation, and reducing peak demand, including enacting 0.75-percent and 2-percent utility energy efficiency standards for natural gas and electricity, respectively; improving energy efficiency programs in New Jersey; adopting new clean energy and energy efficiency financing mechanisms; and strengthening building and energy codes and appliance standards.
  • Strategy 4: Reducing energy consumption and emissions from the building sector through decarbonization and electrification of new and existing buildings, including the expansion of statewide net zero carbon homes incentive programs, the development of EV-ready and Demand Response-ready building codes, and the establishment of a longterm building decarbonization roadmap.
  • Strategy 5: Decarbonizing and modernizing new jersey’s energy system through planning and establishment of integrated distribution plans, investing in grid technology to enable increased communication, sophisticated rate design and reducing the state’s reliance on natural gas.
  • Strategy 6: Supporting Community energy planning and action in underserved communities through incentivizing local, clean power generation; prioritizing clean transportation options in these communities; and supporting municipalities in establishing community energy plans.
  • Strategy 7: Expanding the clean energy innovation economy by expanding upon New Jersey’s existing 52,000 clean energy jobs and investing in developing clean energy knowledge, services and products that can be exported to other regions around the country and around the world, thereby driving investments and growing jobs. New Jersey will attract supply chain businesses to create dynamic new clean energy industry clusters and bring cutting-edge clean energy research and development to the state.

To support the strategies identified in the energy master plan, Executive Order No. 100 directs the DEP to adopt, within two years, regulatory reforms to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. Known as PACT, the sweeping suite of climate change regulations include: establishing a greenhouse gas monitoring and reporting program to identify all significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide and short-lived climate pollutants, and monitor the progress of emission reductions; adopting new regulations under the Air Pollution Control Act establishing criteria to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and short-lived climate pollutants; and reforming environmental land-use regulations to incorporate climate change considerations into permitting decisions, which will allow better planning and building resilient communities by avoiding flood-prone areas, reestablishing chronically inundated wetlands, revegetating riparian areas, and encouraging green building and green infrastructure.

The regulations will ensure that DEP-permitted projects throughout New Jersey prioritize reducing greenhouse gas and other climate pollutant emissions, lessening climate impacts, and ensuring resilience. To implement the executive order, DEP Commissioner Catherine McCabe issued Administrative Order 2020-01 detailing the PACT reforms and setting deadlines for DEP to adopt these climate rules within the next two years, and sooner in many instances.