New Jersey seeks input in revising energy plan

     The first German windmill offshore  power plant in the North Sea is seen in 2010. New Jersey utilities have capitalized on cheap natural gas to lower the state's energy costs, but critics say it has fallen behind in offshore wind. (Frank Augstein/AP Photo)

    The first German windmill offshore power plant in the North Sea is seen in 2010. New Jersey utilities have capitalized on cheap natural gas to lower the state's energy costs, but critics say it has fallen behind in offshore wind. (Frank Augstein/AP Photo)

    New Jersey officials are asking for public input on the state’s energy future as the Board of Public Utilities revises the state’s Energy Master Plan.

    The plan was last reworked in 2011 to improve grid reliability, lower energy costs and support cleaner energy in the Garden State.

    New Jersey utilities have capitalized on cheap natural gas to lower the state’s energy costs, according to the BPU, but critics say it has fallen behind in offshore wind.

    Environment New Jersey director Doug O’Malley said now is the time to change that.

    “What we need in the Energy Master Plan is a clear directive on when the BPU is going to put forward its regulations to green-light offshore wind in New Jersey,” O’Malley said.

    The 2011 plan and the state’s renewable energy portfolio calls for the state to develop more than 1,000 megawatts of offshore wind power, but regulatory delays mean not a single project has been approved.

    Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups will rally Thursday before a public hearing in Trenton to push for increased renewable energy requirements in the plan.

    According to the Board of Public Utilities, even with no offshore wind projects in the works, it is on track to meet its goal of 22.5 percent renewable energy by 2021.

    Rutgers University energy policy professor Frank Felder, who has consulted with the BPU on previous versions of the energy plan, said the document is a logical place for the state to map out how it can meet new federal carbon-reduction requirements.

    “It’s really up to the state, but they have to do two things,” Felder said. “They have to respond to the Clean Power Plan and they have to update the Energy Master Plan, and a lot of that work overlaps.”

    In addition to Thursday’s Trenton meeting, a final public hearing is scheduled for Monday at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in Galloway.

    Written public comments will be accepted until Aug. 24.

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