New Jersey Lawmakers to Vote on Nuclear Subsidies, Renewables, Offshore Wind Bills

New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate are both poised to vote on controversial bills that seek to subsidize the state’s nuclear power plants, modify the renewables portfolio standard, and support a pilot offshore wind farm.

Lawmakers on April 12 could pass the package of bills, which includes S-2313, a bill directing the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to establish zero emission certificates (ZECs) for a nuclear plant that can demonstrate it will cease operations unless it experiences a material financial change. The measure has been championed by PSEG, which says its 2.3-GW Salem and 1.2-GW Hope Creek nuclear generating stations need subsidies even though they are currently profitable.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney has strongly backed the measure since December, but despite multiple efforts, it had failed to come to vote, owing to concerns by Gov. Phil Murphy (D), who wanted it to focus more heavily on promoting clean energy initiatives.

The newest iteration of the bill now reframes its focus on carbon emissions, calling for ZECs, not “Nuclear Diversity Certificates” as in the original bill. To break the impasse, the original bill (S-877), which was introduced on January 9, was later split into the three measures on which lawmakers are poised to vote today.

The outcome for the nuclear subsidy measure is uncertain given that it has several critics.

On April 12, lawmakers could also vote on S-2314, which modifies the state’s renewable energy portfolio standards (RPS). The state currently requires 20.38% of its power supply to come from renewables by 2021. S-2314 requires that 2.5% of kWh sold by power suppliers in New Jersey come from “Class I” renewable energy sources, which includes solar energy, wind energy, wave or tidal action, geothermal energy, landfill gas, anaerobic digestion, fuel cells using renewable fuels, as well as hydro of 3 MW or less. By 2020, that share should rise to 21%, by 2025 to 35%, and by 2030 to 50%. The bill also calls on the BPU to initiate a proceeding to establish a mechanism to achieve 600 MW of energy storage by 2021, and 2,000 MW by 2030.

Also under consideration is S-1217, a bill that requires BPU consideration of a 24-MW pilot offshore wind farm three miles from Atlantic City. The BPU in March 2014 rejected the project spearheaded by Fishermen’s Energy, saying it was too costly. Though the project that year received the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) financial backing for its twisted jacket foundation design, and Fishermen’s successfully appealed the decision in a state court, the BPU rejected it again, prompting Fishermen’s to approach the state Supreme Court. However, the project was dealt a blow when the DOE dropped its support of the project after it failed to secure a power offtake agreement by December 2016.

On April 4, responding to Gov. Murphy’s January 2018 executive order to promote the development of 3.5 GW of offshore wind, French firm EDF Renewables said it had entered into a preliminary agreement with Fishermen’s to acquire the company’s fully-developed pilot.

 

—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)