Can NJ’s clean energy push really make a climate change difference?
A new report finds New Jersey is making good progress in developing clean, renewable energy sources, but more work remains.
The Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center report, "Renewables on the Rise," looks at the growth of five renewable energy sources in the Garden State compared to the rest of the country over the past decade.
Solar power use in New Jersey
Environment New Jersey Director Doug O’Malley said the report ranks the Garden State eighth in the nation for using the power of sunshine.
“New Jersey is one of the highest states in the Northeast for solar, and we’re continuing to see an expansion of all types of solar power in the state,” he said.
And while O’Malley said New Jersey will never be California or Florida for sunshine, solar panels continue to be added on the rooftops of homes and businesses across the state.
He said solar remains a key element of New Jersey’s clean energy future and it’s important to “make sure that solar is more accessible for all parts of the state, and that it can provide the power we need when our energy demand is the highest."
Electric vehicles more popular
The report also finds New Jersey ranks sixth nationally for sales of electric vehicles.
O’Malley said the sale of EVs, has increased dramatically over the past decade in New Jersey, thanks to incentive programs and a dramatic rise in the number of charging stations being built.
“Whatever kind of car or truck you like to drive, there is an electric vehicle version of that, and that growth in consumer choice as well as the reduction in price has helped to get more electric vehicles on the road,” he said.
Skyrocketing gas prices might also help increase sales of EVs, according to O'Malley, as motorists rethink their "relationship with the gas pump."
"Obviously if you drive an EV you never have to go to a gas station again,” O'Malley said.
Wind power progress
The report finds New Jersey ranks 39th in the country for utilizing wind power, but O'Malley said this is misleading because plans for a massive wind farm several miles off the coast of Atlantic City that will power millions of homes has already been developed and approved.
“We can fully expect that New Jersey will take a top ranking for offshore wind in the coming years of the 2020s,” O'Malley said. “New Jersey is number one in potential for offshore wind. We really are number one in moving forward with projects.”
O'Malley said it’s anticipated by the end of 2024 or the start of 2025 offshore wind will begin to power tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the Garden State.
Energy efficiency improvements
The report also finds New Jersey ranks 28th in the nation for expanding energy efficiency, such as requiring energy efficiency standards for new buildings. The state ranks 10th for battery storage of clean energy, with efforts continuing to improve the state’s standing for both of these categories.
The report notes the United States is now producing 23 times as much solar power as it did in 2011. Additionally, the nation has also tripled the amount of wind power that is being produced, energy efficiency programs are saving 17% more energy than in 2011 and the nation's battery storage capacity for solar and wind energy has grown more than 18-fold since 2011.
O'Malley said while New Jersey is doing well in expanding solar, encouraging the sale of EVs and setting the stage for dramatically increasing the use of wind power, there is work to be done.
“We need to double down at this moment to be able to hit our clean energy and climate goals,” O'Malley said.
He stressed New Jersey needs to become a national leader in clean, renewable energy.
"We are on the front lines of climate change. Whether you are at the Jersey Shore facing flooding or whether you’re inland and still recovering from Hurricane Ida.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.