Energy touches the lives of every New Jersey resident - daily. Our quality of life, our security, our prosperity, the land and water around us, and how we work and play all depend on energy. Energy master planning is an important aspect of proactive facilities management, providing an expertly defined and practical road-map to a sustainable future environment.
New Jersey's Board of Public Utilities Office of Clean Energy will be holding hearings this month to update the state's Energy Master Plan.
Adding to the Energy Master Plan's importance is its relationship to the federal Clean Power Plan announced this week by President Obama. The EPA is giving each state an individual goal for cutting power plant emissions. States can then decide for themselves how to get there.
So what are some aspects of a strong Energy Master Plan? Here are a few characteristics of a successful plan:
Under the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan, EPA expects US power plant emissions will be 32 percent lower in 2030 than they were in 2005. A significant cut, though still just a tiny piece of what's needed to reduce Climate Changes. The EPA's Clean Power Plan, which was finalized this past Monday, envisions the nation's infrastructure composed of interstate electrical grids that serve as backbones for renewable energy, pollution trading and a carbon cap-and-trade program. The Clean Power Plan creates a new national cap-and-trade program and allows states to trade pollution credits with each other without setting up interstate agreements beforehand.
This hopefully will provide greater urgency for New Jersey to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the northeast, also known as RGGI. Under the Clean Power Plan, states can switch from coal to natural gas, expand renewables or nuclear, boost energy efficiency, enact carbon pricing...it's up to them. However, states must submit their plans by 2016-2018, start cutting by 2022 at the latest, and keep cutting through 2030. If New Jersey fails to produce our own plan in compliance with the Clean Power Plan, we may be forced by the federal government into a program of its design.
In the absence of RGGI, there are other methods utilities can implement to alleviate and improve NJ energy infrastructure. Low hanging fruits include, but are not limited to, tools like education and technology. How can Climate Change educational strategies can be implemented by utility companies and encourage utilities to incorporate energy efficiency into their portfolios to reduce emissions from fossil fuels?
Regarding the EMP’s Update notice, in the“Emerging Issues since 2011” section about how New Jersey suffered devastating damage from the impacts of super storm Sandy and other major storms and weather events, I would suggest that the Plan focus more on public education by including climate change updates and local weather trends in our energy bills (such as areas that are prone to flooding, and changes in precipitation/humidity/temperature). This way people can see just how greenhouse gases are affecting local weather patterns. A study was conducting in Europe using national survey data collected from 1,822 individuals across the UK in 2010, to examine the links between direct flooding experience, perceptions of climate change and preparedness to reduce energy use. The research showed that those who saw reports of flooding expressed more concern over climate change, saw Climate Change as less uncertain and felt more confident that their actions will have an effect on climate change. More importantly, these perceptual differences also translate into a greater willingness to save energy to mitigate climate change. Highlighting links between local weather events and climate change is therefore likely to be a useful strategy for increasing concern and action.
Smart grids are electrical power grids that are more efficient and more resilient than our current power grids. They focus, not only, on the elimination of black- and brown-outs, but also on making the grid greener and more efficient, and therefore less costly. Smart Grid systems allow utilities the ability to control systems by routing power to where people need it, when they need it. Another useful tool, Smart Meters, which enable multi-directional power and information flows between the utility, the grid and the customer. This multi-level communication gives the utility the ability to quickly identify outages and resolve other services problems.
The implementation of Smart Metering Systems and energy management are the fore-most basic steps to building a Smart Grid. Smart meters give customers greater control over their energy consumption by allowing them to measure their energy usage, monitor real-time electricity prices, and adjust their consumption and behavior in order to recognize significant savings on monthly bills. Customers can even shut down appliances during peak periods, or pre-program appliances and devices to operate only at predetermined time frames.
Similarly, electricity providers also benefit from increased smart meter systems. The two key concepts here are efficiency and reliability. Additionally, utilities have the ability to monitor distribution networks to allow for the immediate detection of irregularities, which leads to drastically reduced response time in addressing outages. Finally, smart meters can help reduce both overall electricity use and peak demand use, leading to lower emissions from fossil power plants that will not have to generate as much power – a direct environmental benefit.
Surely, the benefits outweigh the costs of Smart Meter Programs: THERE WOULD BE
I propose allowing people to decide whether they want Smart Meters installed in their homes for health and safety reasons. There has been a few stories in the papers popping up about people in San Francisco with multiple sclerosis, autism and electrohypersensitivity developing health issues from Smart Meter devices. It’s important to address potential safety and health concerns, while providing the technology at a small cost to the consumer. But - empowering people through education about the technology will help alleviate any concerns the public may have.
The infrastructure of the U.S. electric power system still relies on 1960's and 70's technology. The sector is second from the bottom of major industries in terms of research and development spending as a fraction of revenue. I want to encourage heavier funding for research and development of technologies in distribution, renewable energy sources, and storage units.
Improving New Jersey’s infrastructure, reliance on more energy efficient technologies, and finding more sustainable business solutions would greatly improve safety and health concerns of NJ residents. Energy efficiency, if done correctly, can reduce energy usage and consumer costs, but - that means making sure funding for energy efficiency programs makes its way to energy efficient programs and that the money does not get streamlined into any other state program.
Thank you for your time and consideration.