A controversial bill expanding New Jersey’s use of renewable energy has successfully cleared a state Senate committee.
The bill would require the state to use solar, wind, and other sustainable sources for 80 percent of its energy by the year 2050.
“We have 130 miles of coastline, we were just slammed by Sandy, and people want to have carbonless energy as the main source of their energy,” said Sen. Bob Smith, D-Middlesex, a co-sponsor of the legislation. “It’s the right thing to do.”
To reach the ambitious goal in 35 years, the bill includes intermediate benchmarks that increase the amount of renewables by approximately 10 percent every five years. Consumers would also see the types of sources — and the pollution associated with each — listed on their electric bills.
In a committee hearing, environmental groups generally backed the bill, although some wished for more.
“We can’t just have aggressive goals, we need to have the implementation on how to get there,” said Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey. While supportive, he preferred the version introduced last October, which set specific targets for solar and wind.
Another amendment changed the provision that all the renewable energy had to be generated in New Jersey, a component Smith said was altered because it might run afoul of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.
Opponents, however, warned against building up alternatives too quickly.
“What we want to do is have a steady increase in solar, in renewables, that does not break the bank, and does not force New Jersey ratepayers to pay more than they should,” said Stefanie Brand of the New Jersey Rate Counsel.
An industry representative balked at what he said could expose the state’s manufacturers to an extra $3 billion in energy costs.
After passing a committee vote of 4-1, the bill could arrive on the Senate floor soon. But even proponents said Gov. Chris Christie is unlikely to sign it into law.
“This is still going to be a uphill battle in the Legislature, and certainly an uphill battle with this gubernatorial administration,” said O’Malley.