Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday unexpectedly postponed public hearings that had been set to begin this week on the state’s Energy Master Plan, increasing uncertainty about his ambitious clean energy program as it moves forward.

In a press release issued by his office, the governor announced that the stakeholder meetings that were scheduled to begin on Thursday would be postponed until the end of this year. The goal was to update the plan, which lays out a detailed blueprint for reaching Murphy’s goal of a 100% clean energy economy by 2050.

The plan, widely supported by the environmental community and clean energy advocates, faces the most lingering questions, with particular emphasis on proposals to develop a reliable offshore wind industry along the New Jersey coast and electrify buildings by phasing out natural gas.

To avoid possible political consequences

With all 120 seats in the Legislature up for election this November, delaying any updates to the plan could prevent tough election-year decisions for the administration that could further increase power bills for consumers already hit by more high heating costs this winter.

“After five years of bold climate action in New Jersey, we must not only assess our progress to date, but also renew our commitment to a clean energy economy, taking stock of the vast resources at our disposal,” Murphy said.

The current master plan, adopted in 2019, established a strategic decision to overhaul New Jersey’s energy system and its associated emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants while building a new green economy and creating jobs.

The pause will allow the state to consider the effects of new state and federal policies along with billions of dollars in federal aid to fight climate change. The new 2024 Energy Master Plan will aim to “better capture the economic costs and benefits and impact on ratepayers throughout our journey to a clean energy future,” Murphy said.

Criticism from business

The administration has been repeatedly criticized by members of the business community for not being transparent about the cost and pace of transitioning to a clean economy, and for seeking to phase out the use of fossil fuels.

“While we want the governor to take a hard look at EMP, we hope they will really look at the cost, the technology feasibility and look at other options,” said Raymond Kantor, executive director of the NJBIA (New Jersey Business and Industry Association). ).

Those concerns were heightened this month after PSEG scrapped plans to invest in the state’s first offshore wind project with Ørsted. New Jersey’s Tariff Advisory Division also raised financial concerns about a new bid for another offshore wind project later this year.

“We didn’t meet the goals of the first EMP, so there’s no need to rush the second one.” — Doug O’Malley, Environment New Jersey

Meanwhile, a conservation group called for an end to offshore wind development after half a dozen whales washed up on beaches in New Jersey and New York. They called on the Biden administration to investigate whether increased activity by offshore wind developers is causing the problem.

In at least one instance, the administration has already abandoned one of its climate policies. Last month, he rescinded a proposed regulation that would have required thousands of commercial boilers in New Jersey to be electrified.

“Green Energy Extremism”

“New Jersey cannot afford any more of the costly green energy extremism that Governor Murphy is trying to impose on our families and businesses,” said state Sen. Stephen Oroja, the state Senate Republican leader.

Mike Makarski, a spokesman for Affordable Energy for New Jersey, called on the administration to scrap the plan and start over. “We hope that all the programs are suspended and the next version will answer the three main questions – is it possible, will it be reliable and how much will it cost?” he said.

But administration officials said the new time frame would allow for more extensive modeling of climate strategies.

“Accurate and up-to-date modeling of the energy sector is critical to ensuring that the next energy master plan continues to complement the Global Warming Act and effectively move New Jersey toward our carbon reduction goals,” said the state’s Environmental Protection Commissioner. medium Sean Latourette.

Environmentalists began weighing in late Friday and over the weekend.

If delaying the plan allows New Jersey to get more funding to fight climate change, that’s a good thing, according to Doug O’Malley, director of Environmental Protection New Jersey.

“We have not achieved the goals of the first TEM, so there is no need to hurry with the second one,” he said. “The metric of success should be the number of pollutants we reduce and move forward.”

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