Electrification in New Jersey

Is Our Electric Train Moving Too Fast?

electrification new jersey Is New Jersey’s express train to all-out electrification on the wrong track and moving too fast? There are many valid reasons to be concerned about the direction we’re headed.

Shortly before the start of summer, the North American Energy Reliability Corporation (NERC) released a study warning that the majority of Americans faced a risk of “energy shortfalls” this summer during periods of extreme demand.

NERC, whose mission is to assure the effective and efficient reduction of risk to the reliability and security of the electric grid, cited a combination of factors for its gloomy outlook. These included the continued closures of conventional power generation plants (those that are fossil fuel-driven), substantial peak demand and “an increasing threat to reliability from a widespread heat event.”

As New Jerseyans know all too well by now, that “widespread heat event” came all too soon, right at the beginning of summer. During that time, we suffered, as did most of the country, through long periods of excessive heat. If that wasn’t enough, a powerful wind storm also swept through, leaving tens of thousands of residents without power—or air conditioning.*.

The state government, however, continues to move full steam ahead with its Energy Master Plan (EMP), with a strategy to reach 100% clean energy by 2050. While we support this worthy goal of achieving clean energy to mitigate the drastic effects of climate change, we disagree about how to reach this important objective.

Strain on the Electric Grid, Burden on NJ Families

As outlined now, the current EMP will negatively impact most families in the Garden State. It will also strain our already fragile electric grid and potentially lead to increased power outages, not only during the hottest days of summer, but the coldest days of winter as well.

That’s because the EMP will require whole-house conversions to electric heat pumps that could cost New Jersey families $20,000 or more. But the frustrating part is this: existing heating sources like natural gas, propane and heating oil are already transitioning to low-carbon and no-carbon solutions. Clean electric energy is not the only game in town, and it’s definitely still a work in progress.

Heat Pump Conversions in Older Homes

One of the many problems with the EMP is that it does not fully consider the different types of heating systems in New Jersey, and therefore dramatically underestimates the cost to install an electric heat pump.

North Jersey has five times the number of boilers as the national average; South Jersey has 2.5 times as many. This means there are many homes in New Jersey that do not have the duct work needed to distribute the warm air generated by a heat pump. (Boilers distribute heat via baseboards and radiators). Depending on the design of the home, the installation of a heat pump could cost homeowners $6,500 to $32,000 above the replacement cost of an existing boiler.

Will We Stay Warm 10 Years from Now?

An issue that needs to be discussed more is electric reliability during the winter months, especially in the next decade as more fleets transition to electric vehicles and more buildings electrify.

In the Northeast, it’s estimated that about 10% of our energy consumption goes toward air conditioning. (In contrast, we use about 40% of total energy towards heating).

Yet, it seems like we can never get through a summer heat wave without heavy electric demand or storms causing a major power outage somewhere in New Jersey. Can we really be prepared to handle an enormous new electric heating load during the winter? Right now, we’re far from getting there.

Bioheat® Fuel: A Viable Path to Net-Zero Carbon Emissions

The heating oil industry’s answer for clean energy is Bioheat® fuel, which is readily available now through local New Jersey retail oil companies. It requires no modifications to your existing heating oil system. This fuel is a blend of ultra-low-sulfur heating oil and biodiesel, which is composed of various organic products, including vegetable oils and animal fats.

Biodiesel is considered a biogenic fuel that reduces carbon 100%. By contrast, when fossil fuels that do not contain biodiesel are burned, they take carbon that was stored in the ground and put it back into the atmosphere.

In contrast, the combustion of biofuels and other biogenic energy sources actually recycles carbon-dioxide emissions through renewable plant materials and other biomass feedstocks. That’s why it’s feasible that Bioheat fuel will reach net-zero carbon emissions in the future.

The Transition to B100 Bioheat Fuel

The end game is to transition to B100 Bioheat fuel (100% biodiesel/biofuel). We’re seeing important progress in this direction. Shortly after the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) updated its standards to include burners that use B100 Bioheat fuel, the R.W. Beckett Corporation announced that it had begun production of fully warranted burners with B100-compliant components. Beckett is the country’s largest producer of heating oil burners.

Additionally, the National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) has demonstrated that a home heated with 100% biodiesel and using solar panels to produce electricity can reach net-zero carbon emissions quickly — and at an economically viable cost. Learn more about Bioheat fuel.

All of this is exciting news for everyone who appreciates the many benefits of using heating oil to stay safe and warm, but wants to do their part to preserve our precious environment.

Bottom line: from practical and economical standpoints, the obstacles and consequences of the current New Jersey energy plan are many. You deserve have a clear understanding of these issues and then have an opportunity to make your opinion known. Read more about the ramifications of wide-scale electrification in New Jersey and find out what you can do.