Report Highlights Environmental Benefits of Wind, but New Jersey Off-Shore Wind Program Stuck in Neutral

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Environment New Jersey Research & Policy Center

Trenton – New Jersey has the potential to reap huge environmental benefits from the development of offshore wind, according to a new report released today by Environment New Jersey. If state and federal officials commit to continued progress in launching New Jersey’s offshore wind industry, New Jersey could reduce global warming pollution by 825,000 metric tons in 2018 – equivalent to the carbon pollution produced by more than 171,000 passenger vehicles. The reports shows that the potential for off-shore wind is the highest of all the East Coast states that have taken steps to build off-shore wind.

The 2010 Off-Shore Wind Economic Development Act passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Christie has the potential to bring far more wind power to New Jersey over the next decade, significantly reducing global warming pollution and cutting the state’s reliance on fossil fuels. Yet, over three years after the bill was signed, and close to two and a half years after a key deadline has passed to implement the program, there is still no progress on rolling out the program.

“New Jersey has tremendous potential for off-shore wind, but the clock is ticking down for New Jersey to act,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “New Jersey can’t be a national leader in off-shore wind if we never build turbines. We urge Gov. Christie to move off-shore wind forward.”

Environment New Jersey was joined by Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D-3), Senator Linda Greenstein, vice chair of the Senate Environment Committee, and Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2) in releasing the report, “Wind Power for a Cleaner America II: Reducing Global Warming Pollution, Cutting Air Pollution, and Saving Water.”

“Three years ago, we took a great step forward for renewable energy, jobs and economic growth here in New Jersey,” said Senate President Stephen Sweeney.  “We enacted legislation that was meant to create up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind to be developed off our coasts.  It allowed us to finally tap into the potential of our offshore wind and become a leader in this emergent technology.  But three years later, almost nothing has come to pass.  That is unacceptable.”

The report also shows that offshore wind energy has the potential to reduce 469 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions and 1,093 tons of sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain and soot. New Jersey already suffers some of the worst air pollution in the nation, causing many New Jerseyans to suffer from respiratory diseases such as asthma.

“New Jersey has some of the worst air pollution in the nation. And we can’t forget the lessons of Hurricane Sandy that we stand to suffer more than most if we don’t tackle climate change head-on,” said  Senator Linda Greenstein, Vice Chair of the Senate Environment Committee. “Wind power will help New Jersey clear the air, reduce our contribution to global warming, and create good-paying local jobs that will benefit the economy. But that will only happen if the Christie administration acts on its commitment to build off-shore wind. Time is running out for New Jersey to be an off-shore wind leader.”

If New Jersey is to meet the goals that were set out in the 2010 off-shore wind bill and the New Jersey Energy Master Plan to build 1,100 MW (Megawatts) of new wind energy by 2020, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) needs to finalize an off-shore wind financing system, similar to the state’s solar program.

These next few months are a key moment for off-shore wind, because the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has already moved ahead with leases for off-shore wind in other East Coast states, and is poised to move forward for an auction for New Jersey’s off-shore leases in the next few months. The state delays with its off-shore wind program have added uncertainty to the process.

“America is behind much of the world regarding off-shore wind development. It is past time to start catching up,” said Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2). Whether your motivation is the potential economic development if New Jersey becomes a hub for East Coast off-shore wind, or the environmental benefits of reducing our dependence on fossil fuel, off-shore wind is good for New Jersey.”

The Fishermen’s Energy pilot project, a 25-megawatt wind turbine project, located less than 3 miles off Atlantic City, has been mired in a lengthy review by the Board of Public Utilities (BPU). This delay is has occurred despite the support of the New Jersey Division of the Rate Counsel, which has granted its support to the project.

Off-shore wind projects in New Jersey would provide the impetus for wind turbine manufacturers based in South Jersey, which has the potential to create thousands of jobs in Paulsboro.

New Jersey’s successful development of current wind energy results largely from the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), requiring utilities to provide 22.5% of their power from renewable energy by 2020, and the federal renewable energy Production Tax Credit (PTC). To be able to meet the RPS standard, off-shore wind needs to be part of the state’s energy mix.

The potential benefits of wind power have made it a key component of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to reduce the carbon pollution fueling global warming 17 percent by 2020. The plan calls for an expansion of renewable energy, which the President will announce a key proposal today to require the federal government to attain 20% of its energy from clean, renewable sources by 2020.

Wind energy now powers nearly 13 million homes across the country and is on its way to being cost-competitive with traditional fossil fuels. But the two key federal wind power incentives—the production tax credit (PTC) and the offshore wind investment tax credit (ITC) —expire at the end of the year, which have helped the industry to expand, and advocates are calling on Congress to renew these credits.

“New Jersey is uniquely positioned to be an off-shore wind leader. But the promise is fading with inaction by Gov. Christie’s administration, and we can’t keep waiting. Now is the time to act to ensure other states don’t leap ahead of us on off-shore wind,” said O’Malley.

 Environment New Jersey is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental advocacy organization with over 20,000 members working for clean air, clean water, and open spaces.