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Opinion: The Ghost of the Christmas Electric Grid Yet to Come

By Eric DeGesero, December 27 2022 10:58 am

OPINION

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, PJM – the regional electric grid operator – asked 65 million people in 13 states to conserve electricity to prevent rolling blackouts in the area.

 Two days of cold weather put such a strain on our electric grid that PJM had to request energy conservation system-wide — asking families and seniors to lower their thermostats in frigid temperatures and shut off holiday lights on Christmas Eve. If the grid can’t handle even two days of cold weather now, what will happen when Governor Murphy’s plan to electrify every building in New Jersey is implemented?

Governor Murphy’s electrification mandates for all homes and businesses are impractical and unsound for our electric grid. On top of that, forcing New Jersey buildings to convert to electric will cost an estimated $20,000 per home or more, and approximately $2 million for a large building (public or private) to convert their boiler system. Additionally, the NJDEP estimated the cost of heating buildings will be four to five times greater with electricity as opposed to other energy sources. 

The PJM notice this holiday weekend shows that the Ghost of the Electric Grid Yet to Come is looking very dark when one considers Governor Murphy’s total electrification mandates. That’s why New Jersey renters, homeowners, and businesses deserve for the Legislature to consider bipartisan bills by Senator Gopal, Assemblyman Moriarty, and Assembly Minority Leader DiMaio — to put this electrification-only policy on pause until they can study the full costs and implications of the Energy Master Plan.

Today’s editorial by the Wall Street Journal highlighted the contradictory and negative outcomes of such electrification-only mandates: 

“The climate lobby wants to force all homes and buildings to shift to electric heating even though it is less efficient than gas furnaces in frigid weather. When temperatures fall below freezing, heat pumps consume more and more power. ‘With a generation fleet that is more nat gas heavy than ever before, we are using twice as much gas to heat homes through electricity as we do with gas furnaces,’former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Pat Wood told Bloomberg.”

We are about to turn the calendar to 2023, a new year full of new hope and promise. However, Governor Murphy is still offering us last year’s leftovers: Strategy Four of the Governor’s Energy Master Plan isstill mandating electric heat only, the NJDEP has announced they will revisit the electric boiler regulations, the BPU will unveil a revised building electrification mandate in the Energy Master Plan update to be presented in the next few months, and the Clean Building Working Group is still meeting to develop draft electrification-only heating legislation they will present to the Legislature and try and convince them to pass it. 

Electric-only heating is expensive and intrusive. That’s why a diverse coalition of 32 businesses, labor organizations and non-profits have vocally opposed NJDEP’s rules to mandate electric boilers.  Unfortunately, it’s the gift the Governor is forcing us to accept. Ironic how the naughty gift has transitioned from coal to retrofitted electric-only heating.

Eric DeGesero is the Executive Vice President of the Fuel Merchants Association of New Jersey.

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