New Report: RGGI Benefits NJ’s Economy and Environment

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State will lose hundreds of millions in revenue, see less clean energy, and more air pollution by not staying in the program

Environment New Jersey

(TRENTON) — As a bill moves through the Legislature to keep New Jersey in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), Environment New Jersey released a new report that quantifies the program’s benefits to the state’s economy, to business and residential ratepayers, and to the environment.   RGGI is a 10-state program designed to cap global warming pollution from power plants, make polluters pay, and invest those payments in clean energy programs that further reduce pollution and grow the economy.

The report documents the benefits already realized by New Jersey after just three years of RGGI participation, and it models future benefits that New Jersey will reap by staying in the program, under both a business-as-usual scenario and under a strengthened and improved program.

The report proves that RGGI has added significant value to New Jersey’s economy, supports local jobs, saves all ratepayers money, and helps reduce harmful air pollution.  And it shows how New Jersey’s economy and environment have much to lose if the state withdraws from the program.

“This report proves, once and for all, that RGGI is a win-win for New Jersey’s economy and environment,” said Matt Elliott, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment New Jersey.  “It’s creating jobs, putting money back in our pockets, and cutting harmful air pollution.  With data like this, the right choice is crystal clear: New Jersey should remain in RGGI and continue to reap the economic and environmental benefits for decades to come.  Leaving RGGI would leave hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue on the table – money that could be invested in clean energy programs that would further grow the economy – and would mean more harmful pollution for our state.”

According to the report, RGGI is helping grow the state’s economy, fueling the transition to a cleaner energy future while supporting nearly 1,800 job-years of employment.  By staying in RGGI and working with participating states to strengthen the program, New Jersey would realize hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenue to invest in clean energy programs.  Polluters’ payments could support the installation of up to 730 megawatts of clean, in-state generation, or enough to replace one of New Jersey’s coal-fired power plants.

As currently designed, the program will generate $171 million for clean energy projects in New Jersey between 2012 and 2018.  As states move forward to strengthen the program, available revenue from polluters will increase.  Under a strengthened program, New Jersey would realize anywhere from $340 million to $680 million to be spent on renewable energy and energy efficiency.

After just three years in operation, the program has added roughly $151 million in value to New Jersey’s economy.

“In the last 3 years we have seen tremendous growth in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energy,” said Scott Needham, Chair of Efficiency First New Jersey and President of Princeton Air Conditioning.  “My company has been training the very people that RGGI puts to work,  growing New Jersey’s clean energy economy.  This program creates jobs and saves businesses money, and we feel strongly that the revenue stream from RGGI that flows into our state helps to create jobs and build new markets.”

“Cap and trade is an idea that started in the U.S. and has always enjoyed bipartisan support,” said Bruce Mizrach, Associate Professor, Rutgers University Department of Economics.  “The first program to create tradable permits for pollution was the Acid Rain Program of the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments. The program reduced acid rain to 2/3 of the 1990 levels, savings lakes and forests in the Northeast, and according to the EPA, saving between $170 and $430 billion in health costs.  RGGI can do the same for carbon dioxide, cutting pollution in an effective, economically-sound way that saves us money in the long run.”

Beyond economic growth, the report also found that RGGI is saving money for both business and residential ratepayers.  Nominal short-term increases in electric rates are significantly offset future bill savings.    After just three years in operation, the program has saved the average household $25 in energy costs, and the average business $181.  All told, the program is on track to deliver over $150 million in energy bill savings to New Jersey consumers.

“As this report shows, by investing revenue wisely, RGGI saves all types of utility customers on their utility bills,” said Phyllis Salowe-Kaye, Executive Director of New Jersey Citizen Action.  “RGGI investments made so far have saved the average household $25, and the average business $181 in avoided electricity costs over 2009-2021.  All told, the success of this program over the past three years will mean $150 million in energy bill savings over the coming years.  If you are like the majority of NJ families, extra money in our pockets can help meet an ever growing list of unmet needs and even unpaid bills as we struggle to make ends meet.”

Because RGGI revenue is spent on clean energy programs, including solar arrays and highly efficient new generation, the program is cutting harmful air pollution in New Jersey.  Projects funded by RGGI thus far are creating enough clean energy to power nearly 6,000 New Jersey homes every year, reducing global warming pollution by 13,100 metric tons per year – equivalent to taking 2,500 cars off the road. 

“RGGI has worked.  It has saved us money, reduced greenhouse gases, and created jobs. RGGI has allowed us to grow our economy, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Not only has it created more than 1,700 jobs in our state, it has also helped make New Jersey a leader in green energy and green jobs. It has saved homeowners and businesses money by helping them lower their electric bills.  By passing legislation  keeping us  in RGGI we would be able to work with the 9 other states in the region creating even more jobs and helping to grow our economy while  fighting climate change,” said Jeff Tittel, Director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

By strengthening RGGI in future years, Northeast states could reduce carbon dioxide emissions region-wide by 31 million tons annually – the equivalent of taking 5.9 million cars off the road.

The report notes that RGGI could be the primary tool for New Jersey to meet its pollution reduction mandates required by the 2007 Global Warming Response Act, allowing the state to efficiently and effectively reduce global warming pollution 20 percent by 2020.

“We need to stay in and strengthen RGGI. It’s a key to combating climate change, getting healthier air and greener jobs, as well as increasing our independence from fossil fuel and national security,” said David Pringle of the New Jersey Environmental Federation.  “How can you be against that?”

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