Trying to break an impasse, lawmakers and the governor’s office have apparently agreed to jointly move three bills to subsidize nuclear power, promote clean energy, and revive an offshore wind project off Atlantic City.
The bills, expected to be introduced yesterday but not yet available, aim to advance a key priority of Senate President Steven Sweeney to prop up nuclear power plants in South Jersey, as well as enact significant parts of Gov. Phil Murphy’s ambitious clean-energy agenda.
Those issues were tied together in a single bill, but that proved too comprehensive, hugely controversial, and much too expensive to garner enough support in the Legislature. Advocates hope to push the separate bills through before lawmakers break for their budget deliberations at the end of this month.
Beyond forging new energy policies for the state for the next couple of decades, the legislation could impose billions of dollars in additional costs on utility customers. It may force ratepayers to pay $300 million in subsidies annually just to support nuclear power — and at least as much to keep the state’s solar sector growing.
To business lobbyists and consumer advocates, the price is too high in a state already saddled with some of the highest energy costs in the nation. They also question whether Public Service Enterprise Group, the owner of the plants, has proved its three nuclear units are in financial distress and need subsidies to keep them from closing.
“Before we give PSEG a billion dollar subsidy for nuclear power, shouldn’t we make sure the lights stay on when we have a storm?’’ asked Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. A snowstorm last week left hundreds of thousands of customers of Public Service Electric & Gas, a subsidiary, without power, many for days.
But other environmentalists were happy the clean-energy portion of the bill is moving. It would establish aggressive new goals to have at least 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources, such as solar and offshore wind, by 2030.
“This clearly puts us on a path toward 100 percent clean energy by 2050,’’ said Ed Potosnak, director of the League of Conservation Voters of New Jersey, referring to a goal set by Murphy during his gubernatorial campaign.
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