NJ abandons plan to require costly electric boiler upgrades
TRENTON – State environmental officials have dropped a plan that would have required industrial boilers in New Jersey to be electric starting in 2025.
The proposal made last December led to a year of furious pushback from business interests who said shifting to the new boilers, including the retrofitting of buildings that would be required, would be prohibitively expensive.
Ray Cantor, deputy chief government affairs officer for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, said the cost of replacing a commercial gas boiler with an electric one begins at $2 million.
He said the rule could have impacted approximately 1,500 apartment buildings, 1,500 K-12 public schools, 1,200 commercial, industrial, and manufacturing facilities, 195 county government buildings, 143 auto body shops and other large buildings, including religious facilities.
“In addition to the millions of additional dollars this provision would have cost these establishments, the fact of the matter is converting a modern, fuel-efficient natural gas boiler to an electric one would actually increase carbon emissions due to the carbon footprint of the PJM grid,” Cantor said.
PJM Interconnection, short for Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland, is the regional organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in 13 states and Washington, D.C.
Part of NJ PACT rules
The state had proposed a series of rule changes intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from stationary sources, including fossil fuel-fired electric generating units and commercial and industrial fossil fuel-fired boilers.
In addition to the cost for the new boilers, the operating costs would also have been much higher – 4.2 times to 4.9 times more than gas boilers, the state estimated. The increased need for electricity would have required importing power from other states that isn’t renewable, at least not at this point.
The Department of Environmental Protection said the final rule adopted Dec. 2 excluded the boiler-related portions from the original proposal. Other changes were adopted, such as banning the sale and use of No. 4 and No. 6 fuel oil and the emission limits on electric generating units.
Caving in, or dodging a pricey bullet?
Environmental activist Jeff Tittel, the former Sierra Club director, called it “another shameful move” motivated by Gov. Phil Murphy’s ambition to run for president.
“This was (the) only part of (the) rule that would have actually reduced greenhouse gases,” Tittel said. “Gov. Murphy once again caved to corporate and fossil fuel interests at the expense of our environment.”
Tittel said the remaining standards in the rule are “so weak that it would close down or eliminate one fossil fuel electric generation plant.”
Sen. Anthony Bucco, R-Morris, who has often criticized the Murphy administration’s energy master plan, said the electric boiler plan “short-circuited because it didn’t make any sense.”
“It would have been a massive and unnecessary cost for both businesses and taxpayers,” Bucco said. “With the removal of the boiler mandate from NJDEP rules, we just dodged a multi-billion-dollar bullet that business owners, renters, school districts, and local governments couldn’t afford.”
Assembly Minority Leader John DiMaio, R-Warren, said the Murphy administration should similarly move away from other electric heating goals in the energy master plan that would affect individual homeowners.
“The governor needs to be working for the people of New Jersey and not against them. Stop pushing policies that punish responsible business owners and homeowners,” DiMaio said. “Murphy should create opportunities that incentivize clean energy adoption, not oppressive regulations that make it impossible to operate a business or run a household in New Jersey.”