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Sunday, May 19, 2024


We Need Reliable and Affordable Energy

Wind farm option

By Herald Staff

We are in a process of a historic transition from a heavy reliance on fossil fuels to a world dominated by renewables. That’s the message as the push for wind and solar farms grows even before the first New Jersey wind turbine is operational. We have goals for 2030 and 2050 that will phase out electric generation from natural gas and replace it with sun and wind energy. 
Let’s review what the state’s energy master plan tells us. 
The state’s plan for energy sources for electricity generation by 2050 calls for maintaining nuclear power at approximately its current level, having natural gas decline as a generating source to almost zero, and increasing dramatically the electricity generated by wind and solar farms. 

Incorporated into the plan is the expectation that New Jersey would become a heavy importer of electricity generated in other states. The buying of electricity would be through a regional transmission organization known as Pennsylvania Jersey Maryland (PJM). 

Think about this plan for a moment in terms of its ability to provide reliable access to energy. First it depends on racing forward with wind and solar farms that themselves have reliability issues. It is simply true that the sun does not always shine, and the wind does not always blow. 
The resolution of these issues depends on advances in energy storage technology both in terms of capability and cost. The state plan merely says energy storage technology will be incorporated as its cost come down. 
We are told that New Jersey will be first among states transitioning to renewables and yet we have a plan that calls for dependance on importing renewably generated energy from nearby states. Where are the assurances that will be available?
California offers us pause as we consider our ability to rely so heavily and so quickly on renewables. It also provides a real-world example of the ability to depend on imported electricity from nearby states.
In California, first among the states in its push into renewable energy, demand is growing faster than supply. The assumption that neighboring states will help California meet its needs has already been shown to be unreliable, and the cost of power has soared during periods of heavy need. During a recent heat wave Californians were told to turn their thermostats to 78 degrees, avoid using major appliances and even stop charging their electric cars because the state could not meet the demand surge.
Turning to other states did not help. The demand elsewhere was also high. 
We are told that nuclear power will be retained as a source of reliable electricity. But the facts are that New Jersey’s nuclear capability is declining. The recent closing of the Oyster Creek Plant cut the electricity that was produced by nuclear power by 600 megawatts. The existing nuclear plants are aging and receiving state subsidies to remain open. In 2021 those subsidies hit the maximum annual amount allowed by state law – almost $300 million. Projections are that subsidies, designed to keep the aging plants online, could run into the billions as the state continues its transition to renewables.  
These subsidies are to maintain aging nuclear plants at their current levels of power generation.  They buy us nothing in terms of new capacity. 
The state plan also says there will be no near-term expansion of nuclear capacity. Near term? Is anyone thinking about the lead time necessary to bring new nuclear capacity online? It is not a decision we make after our renewable plan runs into trouble. If we project a need for nuclear generation of electricity, then the time to begin the investment in new plants was yesterday.  
The state energy plan also anticipates a doubling of the state’s electricity load by 2050. There is no ambiguity. That is a statement in the Energy Master Plan. Where will the ability to meet that enormous growth in electricity demand reliably come from? What will it cost? We get no real answer.
 You can be excused if you have the feeling you are standing at the craps table in Atlantic City watching our future depend upon a throw of the dice. 
The emissions problems we seek to address are real, but so are the demands of an advanced economy upon which we all depend. We need planning that speaks directly to the issues of energy reliability and cost. That may mean a rethinking of the proper mix of energy sources. 

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