Viability of offshore wind energy touted at NJBIZ panel
New Jersey could benefit from harnessing offshore wind, and its educated workforce offers a competitive advantage in promoting energy development projects in the state.
Those were among topics discussed Tuesday during a panel discussion on energy policy sponsored by NJBIZ at the Imperia in Somerset.
Gov. Phil Murphy has proposed New Jersey generate 100 percent of its power by renewable energy sources by the year 2050. Murphy has also signed an executive order to put New Jersey back in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cooperative market-based program among several states to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
Clarke Bruno, a senior partner and president at Anbaric Development Partners LLC, helped prepare New Jersey’s energy master plan. Anbaric is a Massachusetts-based company that develops transmission projects across the United States and Canada.
Bruno considers affordability of energy as an important factor pertaining to this business sector. He has seen New Jersey experience pent-up demand over the last eight years. He proposed capitalizing on New Jersey’s natural geographic advantage to harness off-shore wind and to use the markets of Philadelphia and New York City.
“The question of integration of local, state, and federal governments is important because the energy sector is highly regulated,” Bruno said. “At least for offshore wind, which is where the Murphy administration is putting its chips, I invite policy makers to export renewables. The ability to compete on price is an economic opportunity for the state.
“I think each state needs to get transmission right,” he added. “You have a transmission policy, you build infrastructure … and allow businesses to grow quickly.”
Bruno told audience members to contact their elected representatives.
Competition is needed in the renewable energy segment to compete against each other and against fossil fuels, Bruno said. In Western Europe, the renewable energy business sector is reaching price parity with fossil fuels, he said.
“People worry about how affordability effects the economic health of the state,” Bruno said. “Compare New Jersey to Massachusetts, which does not have enough gas. New Jersey does. We have access to very affordable natural gas. Without driving up the cost of energy, we have a blanket.”
Jeffrey Gradone, a partner at law firm Archer & Greiner, focuses on redevelopment and issues that deal with property taxes. He said renewable energy projects begin being planned at the local level and noted New Jersey has 565 municipalities with local planning boards.
“These projects are popular at the state and federal level yet less so at the local levels,” Gradone said. “They are going to end up next to someone’s school in their neighborhood. … These projects are done because the municipalities are getting two to three times the tax dollars.”
Katie Gibbs heads business development at Engineering Labor Employee Cooperative 825, which focuses on promoting economic development and infrastructure for its members. She said the issue of energy affordability in New Jersey is important for residents and businesses.
“The governor has an ambitious energy plan but we have to make sure that we are not pitting one form of energy against another,” Gibbs said.
Operating engineers are highly trained, she said.
“Gov. Murphy has talked about the innovation economy and making sure the workforce is trained,” Gibbs said. “That is part of building a strong middle-class.”
New Jersey natural gas prices are currently low and the PennEast Pipeline will help further lower prices, she said.
Roger Zyma works in business development at STV Energy Services and believes that technology drives the future of the energy business.
He said that economics must drive energy sector growth “rather than politics and traffic across social media.”
“One item at the business level is the development of battery-storage technology for future use,” Zyma said. “This is a growth market.”
Regionally speaking, he said rippling economic effects of the western Pennsylvania Shell ethylene cracker plant project will benefit New Jersey.
“As the product comes online, it is competing in the same market as the Gulf Coast,” Zyma said. “The ripple effect in the Northeast is projected to be substantial – New Jersey included.”
The panel was moderated by Frank Felder, the director of the Center for Energy, Economic and Environmental Policy and an associate research professor at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.