NJ Approves New Programs and Funding for Customer Energy Savings and Renewable Energy

Funding to increase to $124 million by 2003 to help fund energy conservation and renewable energy programs.

Published: 02-Mar-2001

NEWARK, N.J.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 1, 2001--The Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense, and a number of renewable energy and energy-efficiency companies applaud today's decision by the Board of Public Utilities approving a variety of programs that will help customers reduce energy use and lower their energy bills while developing renewable energy sources, such as fuel cells, solar electric systems and wind generators, and bringing substantial environmental and public health benefits to the state.

These programs will help insulate New Jersey consumers against energy price spikes that occur at times of peak demand in today's competitive energy market while improving overall system reliability.

Approval of the programs and the new funding levels needed to implement them is the latest step in New Jersey's Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act which governs the state's utility services restructuring process. The programs are the primary tools by which the state will meet the environmental goals set forth in the Act, ensuring that energy efficiency and clean technologies remain an integral part of state energy policy. New Jersey is the first state in the nation where all investor-owned utilities have worked jointly together to deliver a comprehensive package of energy efficiency and customer-sited renewable energy programs on a statewide basis.

"These programs provide the most cost-effective means to reduce the environmental and public health impacts of energy use, including nitrogen oxides which cause smog, sulfur dioxide which causes acid rain, carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas and mercury, which poisons our rivers and lakes," said Dale Bryk, an attorney with Natural Resources Defense Council, a national environmental group that helped develop the provisions of the restructuring law that require the new programs. "These efforts will also contribute significantly to the State's climate change goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 3.5% by 2005."

The comprehensive package of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs that the BPU approved are designed to provide the greatest customer savings and environmental benefits per dollar invested and are to be delivered on a statewide basis to New Jersey customers. The programs will help customers lower their energy costs by providing incentives for the purchase of energy efficient equipment such as high efficiency air conditioners and heating systems and energy efficient lighting. The programs also provide builders and building owners with incentives to incorporate energy efficient designs and equipment into new buildings and homes. The Board's plan also includes a number of programs designed to make energy more affordable for low-income customers by improving home insulation, replacing inefficient incandescent lighting with efficient compact fluorescent lights and implementing other measures that reduce energy use.

The new programs will be backed by a significant increase in statewide funding. Funding will increase from approximately $55 million in each of 1999 and 2000 to $115 million for 2001, $119 million for 2002 and $124 million for 2003, 75% of which will go to the efficiency programs and 25% of which will support renewables. The funding levels approved by the Board fairly balance the state's commitment to funding energy efficiency and renewable technology programs with concerns over rate increases.

These programs will provide substantial energy savings, offsetting the need to build and operate new power plants and invest in new transmission lines and reducing the amount of coal, oil and natural gas New Jersey imports to meet its energy needs, while at the same time improving system reliability and helping New Jersey to attract new, high tech industries.

In the past, utilities have delivered energy efficiency programs independently. Under the new plan, the utilities will jointly implement programs that are consistent across the State. This coordination will streamline processes, capitalize on economies of scale and build on the diverse expertise and strengths of the different utilities implementing each of these programs. The utilities will also administer the customer-sited renewable program for an initial period of one year. The Board in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Protection will administer the grid-supply renewable energy program.

NRDC praised the initial administrative structure but voiced concern about the Board's intent to shift responsibility for the renewable energy rebate program from the utilities to an independent statewide administrator after one year. "It doesn't make sense to decide that issue until an independent system administrator is up and running and capable of taking on this program," said Ms. Bryk. "We don't want to see a gap in program implementation if the utilities are successfully administering the rebates."

"This is a significant step towards reducing harmful air pollution in New Jersey," said Natalie Patasaw, energy policy analyst at Environmental Defense. "These new programs will encourage clean, renewable sources of energy, which are essential because electricity is the largest industrial source of pollution nationwide. The Board should be applauded for this enlightened move."

"BP Solar is very pleased with the leadership demonstrated by the State of New Jersey and the BPU," said Todd Foley, Director of External Affairs and Business Development. "We're confident that the programs will meet with tremendous success and look forward to serving New Jersey customers and working with the BPU and others to transform New Jersey's energy and environmental future."

"Wind energy is the fastest growing energy resource world-wide. The funds available to landowners and wind energy developers under this order will help ensure that New Jersey shares in the economic and environmental benefits of large scale grid-connected turbines, and smaller wind machines suitable for homes and farms," said Randall Swisher of the American Wind Energy Association.

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