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ASSEMBLY PANEL GREEN LIGHTS CHIVUKULA BILL PACKAGE TO FAST TRACK CLEAN ENERGY, INCLUDE LONG-TERM CAPACITY & INFRASTRUCTURE PLANNING IN EMP
Assembly Utilities Chair Says Sandy Underscores Urgency of Slowing Climate Change
(TRENTON) Legislation sponsored by Assembly Utilities Chairman Upendra J. Chivukula to fast track clean energy and to prioritize long-term capacity and infrastructure planning was released by an Assembly panel on Thursday.
The Assembly Telecom and Utilities Committee released a bill (A-2888) to create a separate Office of Clean Energy that would continue to be funded by the Societal Benefits Charge (SBC).
"Hurricane Sandy, a storm that devastated New Jersey, underscores the urgency of slowing climate change, which scientists say is a major factor in the severe weather conditions that we have been experiencing. It is unacceptable that in the past three years, nearly $600 million in clean energy funds have been raided by the Christie Administration. These funds, that are generated from ratepayers, are intended to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide, the main cause of climate change," Chivukula (D-Somerset\Middlesex) said.
"Establishing a separate Office of Clean Energy would create a structure and reporting mechanism and give the state Legislature a better understanding of the use of ratepayer funds," he added.
New Jersey's Clean Energy Program is funded by a monthly fee that utilities levy on commercial, industrial and residential ratepayers known as the Societal Benefits Charge. The Christie Administration has raided hundreds of millions of dollars in these funds to plug budget holes.
"Raiding these funds to balance the budget amounts to imposing a hidden tax on ratepayers," said Chivukula.
A second measure (A-2887) released by the Assembly panel would incorporate long-term capacity and infrastructure planning into the existing Energy Master Plan.
"The lack of long-term capacity and infrastructure planning in deregulated New Jersey, leads to higher rates because of the excessive capacity charges paid to PJM. In-state generation shortfalls or insufficient capacity and the need to purchase a substantial portion of electricity from out-of-state has resulted in much higher capacity prices for New Jersey than for other states under the PJM Interconnection grid," Chivukula said.
New Jersey is part of the Pennsylvania, Jersey, Maryland (PJM) Interconnection power grid which serves 13 states and the District of Columbia. PJM is currently the world's largest competitive wholesale electricity market. Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia are also part of the grid.
"The measure we sponsored would power up utilities to better meet the electricity needs of our state and bring prices down for ratepayers," Chivukula added. "The bill would also provide for the efficient integration of generation and distribution systems and for more local power generation. It would encourage planning for distributed generation and the creation of micro grids and smart switches to facilitate the quicker restoration of power at a local level in the event of natural disasters," he added.
Under the existing system, while power generation is regulated at a federal level by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), distribution falls under the state's Board of Public Utilities (BPU). Integrated resource planning for capacity and infrastructure often leads to a lack of adequate preparation to prevent power outages for long durations. Chivukula's measure would create better planning of integrated resources between generation and distribution and also for distributed generation in the event of emergencies.
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"Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto, a Hudson County Democrat, is balking. He claimed Tuesday that members of his caucus are divided over the measure and that his house is in no real rush – besides, even if enacted this year, the reforms would not take effect until 2017, he said. And with the growing belief that Christie could skip town to run for president, some Democrats are not eager to give him another talking point for his résumé. Christie’s plans to stump for Republican candidates in New Hampshire later Thursday only fuel that suspicion." - columnist Charles Stile- The Bergen Record
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