By Mike Butler. Reprinted from NJ.com Guest Column of Nov. 28, 2021. Mike Butler is the mid-Atlantic executive director of the Consumer Energy Alliance. Click here for its Home Page. Home Page – Consumer Energy Alliance
New Jerseyans know that climate and environmental improvements are needed, but they don’t know yet what it will cost them nor how it will affect their daily energy needs. Curiously, they won’t know until well after this past November election.
In fact, the cost of New Jersey’s “Energy Master Plan” (EMP) proposed by Democratic Governor Phil Murphy in January 2020 won’t be known until the end of 2022, almost three years after it was put forward. It appears that regulate first and budget later is the order of the day in Trenton. It does not appear that the cost implications for consumers or small businesses are being considered.
Fortunately, others are calculating the EMP’s potential costs — and the estimates are astronomical. The independent nonprofit Affordable Energy for New Jersey coalition calculated it will cost $525 billion to meet the governor’s power goals of 50% renewables by 2030 and 100% by 2050. That translates into an estimated $56,450 for each of the state’s nearly 9.3 million residents.
That will buy a mid-level BMW or Mercedes, but would you hand the dealer a blank check without a test drive first? Of course not. So why should New Jersey’s people be expected to buy into the EMP before knowing the costs to their wallets and energy reliability.
The EMP is the product of an organization called RMI, which dubs itself a think-tank for renewable energy. New Jersey’s taxpayers should be the guinea pigs in what amounts to an experiment created by an organization that relies on $1,900 chairs to cool and warm its employees, and peddles whimsical forecasts of lower costs.
Affordable Energy estimates that meeting the EMP’s electric vehicle mandate alone could cost $176 billion — that’s $2 billion more than the Biden administration originally planned to spend on EVs nationwide.
Electrifying homes and businesses will cost $65 billion, and upgrading the state’s energy system will require customers to pay another $12.5 billion.
All of this without even asking consumers if they’d like to keep their gas stove, furnace or hot water heater.
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Likewise, the nonprofit Garden State Initiative in August noted how similar plans with unrealistic mandates have spiked electricity costs and hurt reliability. In California, for instance, the average residential electric bill since 2010 climbed 26% by May 2020 versus a tiny 1.6% growth for the rest of the U.S. And we all know California can barely keep its lights on.
New Jersey homeowners will face one more substantial cost under the EMP: the price tag for switching to electric heat from gas. The Garden State Initiative report found that 84% of New Jersey households will spend roughly $23,000 to convert. The EMP contends the cost will be a mere $7,500 – an unaffordable strain for those living in poverty or on fixed incomes. Neither cost here includes the price of new appliances or wiring upgrades.
Oh, and one more thing — every time the consumer cost is mentioned, the answer from elected leaders is subsidies or tax breaks to ease the impact. Who ends up paying for those? Taxpayers.
What’s nearly as egregious as the EMP’s sky-high price tag is how disconnected its goals are from reality. New Jersey has already shown it cannot even come close to meeting the target of sourcing 21% of the state’s electricity from renewable sources, under a requirement set by the Bureau of Public Utilities in 2018. Right now, that number is just 6%.
We all want to diversify our energy resources with more renewable energy, but the evidence shows that the political goals — designed to please a small, vocal minority — are disconnected from the realities of engineering and construction. How can the state possibly expect to meet the 2025 requirement of 35% renewable energy at this rate?
New Jerseyans — and residents of other states where bad policies like the EMP are under consideration — must vote for leaders who protect and promote affordable, reliable energy in a way that balances environmental improvement with a sensible mix of traditionally reliable energy sources and renewables.
Energy is a fundamental right, and leaders who don’t understand the impact poor energy policies have on our businesses and families — especially those who can least afford to pay more — should rethink their plans, lest voters rethink theirs.
Mike Butler is the mid-Atlantic executive director of Consumer Energy Alliance.
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