Environmental Groups Ask BPU To Require More Energy Efficiency Programs In Wake Of Extreme Weather

STATE — Environmental groups are calling on the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to require more energy efficiency programs in the wake of extreme weather events like Hurricane Sandy and to protect against these storm events in the future.

Eastern Environmental Law Center is representing the Sierra Club and New Jersey Environmental Federation in the utility rate case currently before the BPU to request that PSE&G avoid future storm costs and improve resiliency for the next storm by promoting energy efficiency, clean and renewable energy now. The environmental groups support utilities undertaking major updates to their underlying infrastructure in the wake of the extreme weather events, and to do so responsibly. In March the BPU ordered PSE&G to provide sufficient detail to evaluate rate increases to cover the storm mitigation and underlying infrastructure improvements.

“We are intervening in this case to try to get BPU to do the job they should be doing all along, making our grid system more resilient to future storms. We can do this through energy efficiency, distributive generation, and renewable energy. We will save rate payer money, reduce greenhouse gases, create jobs, protect the environment and better prepare our state for the next storm,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.

Investing in energy efficiency will not only save energy resources but save money and better prepare us for the next storm, according to the groups. Energy efficiency can reduce the need for new expensive transmission lines, substations, and other distribution infrastructure, making the grid less vulnerable to falling trees and flooding. This would save ratepayer money and have less of an environmental impact on sensitive features such as wetlands and streams. Smart grid and distributed generation technology make the grid less vulnerable to circuit outages. Clean energy mitigates the impacts of future storms by reducing carbon pollution in our atmosphere, lessening the future impacts of climate change. Distributed generation can be tied to energy storage systems such as battery backup systems and renewable systems. Focusing only on physical protection does not address the broader problems with our energy delivery system, but reducing demand begins to work on those issues, the groups say.

“We are simply asking BPU follow the law by requiring the utilities to provide service in a just and reasonable way that is consistent with conserving the quality of the environment by preventing pollution” said Aaron Kleinbaum, Legal Director of Eastern Environmental Law Center.

As part of the proceedings PSE&G is coming into the BPU to request $3.9 billion for improvements to the grid over the next 10 years as part of their Energy Strong program. The money would go towards projects such as relocating switching stations from flood zones and replacing low pressure gas lines in flood areas.

“To date, BPU and the utilities have been more concerned about themselves than sound public policy. We’re intervening because improved efficiency will not only result in cleaner air and improved public health but also financial relief for industrial and residential consumers and good jobs,” said David Pringle, Campaign Director, NJ Environmental Federation.

The decisions the BPU make in these rate cases will impact New Jersey’s energy future. The Sierra Club is intervening in the case to support the use and further development of distributed generation, increasing the use of demand-side management technologies, implementation of “Smart Grid” networks, and other energy efficiency programs.

“We the rate payers are paying for the utilities’ past mistakes. Had they invested more in renewable energy, efficiency, and smart grid we would not have had the outages and problems we had. This is our chance to fix the problems and mistakes of the past to grow our economy and give us a brighter clean energy future in New Jersey,” said Tittel.

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