New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has postponed work on a new renewable energy master plan. The decision, made by his office on Friday, means that the administration of a former “America’s greenest” governor won’t update one of its key climate change documents until at least 2024, more than a year later than originally planned.
In January 2020, the most recent energy master plan was unveiled, including strategies for achieving the governor’s election pledge of 100 percent sustainable energy by 2050.
The governor has since promised to decrease greenhouse emissions by half by 2030, but he hasn’t yet revealed a concrete strategy for doing so.
Murphy’s delay does not halt New Jersey’s efforts to implement renewable energy legislation, but it does shift the conversation from the administration to the Legislature.
A significant energy measure is being worked on by the Senate Environment and Energy Committee and will be unveiled in the coming weeks.
Sen. Bob Smith (D-Middlesex), leader of the committee, told POLITICO that the draught legislation “will revolutionize the energy world in New Jersey” and will be made public in about two weeks.
An earlier version of the measure sought to have around 100 percent of the state’s electricity come from “zero-carbon” sources by 2030, although many details still need to be worked out.
In an election year where every state senator and member of the Assembly will be up for election, several business and labor organizations saw Murphy’s postponement and congressional engagement as a success.
By delaying the revision of the energy master plan until the following year, according to Eric DeGesero, executive vice president of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey, the governor is providing lawmakers with “a chance for substantive debate.”
The decision to provide Gov. Murphy with the legislative authority he presently lacks for such a costly mandate will be made by the members of the 221st Legislature, which will take office on January 9, 2024, according to DeGesero.
But given that some discussions have included representatives of the Board of Public Utilities, it’s not as if the governor or his staff aren’t involved. Smith claimed that during the lengthy, months-long process of bill writing, “substantial consultations with the BPU” had taken place.
Murphy’s decision to postpone work on an update to the energy master plan received little immediate feedback from environmental organizations.
On Thursday at the BPU, the initial hearings for the so-called 2022 energy master plan were scheduled to start. For what will be known as the “2024 plan,” they won’t begin until later this year.
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Progressive organizations, however, are also attempting to get a foothold in the legislature. Ideas beyond Smith’s bill are circulating, such as the clean energy jobs measure that would be based on a significant Illinois statute adopted in 2021.
The inclusion of worker training in a comprehensive energy plan for New Jersey is crucial, according to Alex Ambrose, a policy analyst with the liberal think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective.
Murphy acknowledged his own administration’s doubts about how clean energy will affect consumer bills in a statement announcing the postponement of the clean energy master plan update, saying the new plan will “better capture economic costs and benefits.”
The governor’s declaration, according to Mike Makarski, a spokesman for Affordable Energy for New Jersey, a coalition of business and labor leaders, shows the existing energy master plan is “a catastrophic failure and must be tossed out and begun over.”
The three questions of “is it practical, will it be reliable, and what will it cost?” should be addressed in the following version, he said.