Gov. Murphy announces plan for 100% clean energy by 2050; could lead to rate hikes

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Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled a sweeping energy plan that sets goals for shifting the state to 100% clean energy by 2050 – a plan that could lead to rate hikes by utility companies.

The governor announced the plan Monday at Stockton University alongside two Cabinet officials who will be carrying the plan out. They are Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Catherine McCabe and Board of Public Utilities President Joe Fiordaliso.

“An energy strategy is almost like a jigsaw puzzle, you know? There are so many pieces. Our challenge is to fit those pieces together,” Fiordaliso says.

The BPU president says that New Jerseyans should be doing more to help the environment.

“I really believe we have a moral obligation to mitigate climate change to the best or our ability because it is changing the earth,” he says.

The plan calls for reducing the use of fossil fuels while increasing renewable sources of energy, specifically by encouraging electric vehicles, electrifying transport and developing offshore wind and solar energy. New Jersey currently gets most of its electricity from natural gas and nuclear plants.

"We don't want to put anybody out of business. We just want to make a livable environment for the 9.3 million people who live here and to mitigate the effects of climate change,” Fiordaliso says. "I don't think it's unrealistic. It's ambitious it's progressive, but it's something - bold action has to be taken."

But in a state that many already find to be unaffordable to live in, are higher prices for utilities for cleaner energy a viable option?

"I think most people would agree we do need to transition away from fossil fuels. But we can't do it in a way that our electric bills go so sky-high that people can't afford to turn on their lights or heat their homes,” says Stefanie Brand, an advocate for the group New Jersey Ratepayer.

Brand has been speaking up for consumers for over a decade.

“We’re like a little mosquito buzzing around them, trying to make them answer these questions,” she says.

Murphy and the BPU have pursued a $300 million nuclear energy subsidy, lead pipe replacement and now an energy master plan, since the governor took office. Brand says that she worries that all these projects may lead to a tipping point for taxpayers.

“That’s why we stay on them to say, ‘How much is this going to cost?’” Brand says.

The BPU says an analysis of how much energy rates could go up will be done by April.

The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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