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Going Greener and Cleaner
Offshore wind, community solar and even light bulbs can pave the way to combat climate change with green-energy efforts.

by Kristen Dowd

Scientists and environmental activists have been sounding the alarm about climate change for decades. The 1980s marked a turning point in this climate crisis, the end of the decade ushered in increased droughts, wildfires and, in 1988, the hottest summer on record. Before the calendar flipped to 1990, the United Nations established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in an effort to provide policymakers with the most up-to-date science behind these significant weather variations and their impact around the globe.

Fast forward to 2024, and climate change has come to be recognized as a mounting disaster in need of solutions. Finding sustainable ways to improve the state of the environment and to slow the progress of climate change is in the forefront worldwide—and New Jersey is no exception.

In early 2023, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a goal of turning The Garden State even greener by targeting 100% clean energy by 2035. The executive order defined the goal “as 100% of the electricity sold in the State to come from clean sources of electricity by Jan. 1, 2035, through clean energy market mechanisms, paired with support for a Clean Energy Standard in New Jersey,” according to a press release the governor’s office issued last year.

It’s a lofty goal not without challenges, but as offshore wind projects continue to develop, electric vehicle sales soar (Kelley Blue Book estimates a record 1.2 million were sold in the U.S. last year) and the federal government also eyes progressive investment in curbing climate change, it’s a goal many are working toward.

“We’ve truly seen a revolution over the course of the last decade in clean energy,” says Doug O’Malley, state director of Environment New Jersey.

This shift has been “hypercharged” by President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, O’Malley explains, in providing roughly $400 billion in clean energy investment.

“We’re seeing a real rush from the business community to invest in American clean energy tech. The amount of investment is triple what was expected,” O’Malley continues. “That just kind of shows that we’re truly at an inflection point of clean energy.”


Winds of change

According to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, currently approved offshore wind projects are expected to generate $4.7 billion for the New Jersey economy, along with providing more than an estimated 10,000 jobs.

O’Malley says turning New Jersey into the nation’s offshore wind leader is the “key lynchpin” to Gov. Murphy’s 2035 clean energy goal.

“The potential of offshore wind is as strong as ever. We have a gold mine of clean energy right off the Jersey Shore,” O’Malley says. “Offshore wind won’t be a boon only for New Jersey, but it’s really a boon for the entire East Coast.”

While the currently approved offshore wind projects in New Jersey have the potential to bring clean energy to millions of homes, harnessing this energy isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. It is critical to ensure that New Jersey has the 21st-century electricity grid to keep up with this thoroughly modern technology and influx of clean energy.

New Jersey is part of the PJM Interconnection LLC, the largest electric transmission grid in the country powering more than a dozen states spanning North Carolina south to Illinois west.

“You can’t just plug in gigawatts of offshore wind anywhere. You have to do it in areas where the grid is ready to take that excess capacity,” O’Malley says.

This is where companies such as Atlantic City Electric come into play. The utility works with offshore wind developers to facilitate interconnections with its transmission system, according to Candice Womer, senior communications specialist with Atlantic City Electric. Additionally, the South Jersey company is working with the PJM process to build the needed transmission to support offshore wind.

And it’s not all about the wind: Atlantic City Electric has been pivoting in recent years to deliver modern energy solutions to its customers across several avenues.

“Atlantic City Electric’s current suite of energy-efficiency programs help customers further reduce energy use and save money, help drive equity with respect to access to energy programs, and to combat the effects of climate change,” Womer says. “So far, the company’s current programs have saved our customers almost 96,000 megawatt hours of electricity since July 2021, and is projected to avoid more than 70,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions by 2024.”


Community solar

The ability and desire to bring solar energy to New Jersey communities has grown exponentially in recent years. It’s a smart way to work toward clean energy, and some businesses recognized this right off the bat.

“We have a permanent community solar project,” O’Malley says. “And this really is fulfilling the promise of clean energy.”

With community solar, the benefits—both environmental and economical—can be accessed by almost any business or resident in the community regardless of whether they have the means to utilize solar panels on their own property. The solar generation facilities harness the energy, as well as the community benefits.

“Community solar is really democratizing the access to clean energy and providing cheaper bills to state residents,” O’Malley says. “We can look at having more reliable and dependable sources of energy. There’s no such thing as a solar spill.”


Better business

New Jersey businesses recognize that adapting to clean energy is a key part of being a business in the 21st century. Hutchinson Mechanical Services, for instance, considers itself a leader in promoting green energy solutions to customers.

“Hutchinson consistently champions industry advancements, firmly positioned at the forefront of advocating green energy technology choices to both residential and commercial customers,” Peter Hatton, director of Hutchinson commercial services, says. “We proactively provide energy efficiency solutions such as HVAC and lighting upgrades to help our customers reduce their environmental impact and lower utility bills.”

Training current and future employees with the latest industry trends and developments is essential for a greener, cleaner future, too—as well as for being a successful modern  business.

“As we strive toward a carbon neutral environment by 2035, staying abreast of green energy advancements is imperative,” Hatton says. “It’s also critical that we  promote our industry to let young people know about the rewarding and lucrative career prospects available within the HVAC industry. We need the next generation of tradespeople in order to continue to promote new technologies.”

Businesses of all types—especially those that may not have the capital to make significant green changes on their own—can take advantage of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities incentive programs, which are run through the clean energy fund.

“You can make the incentive programs work for you. You might not necessarily see those improvements when you open the door to an office, but you certainly can see them in your bottom line,” O’Malley says.

And remembering that something as seemingly small as changing incandescent light bulbs to LED bulbs can add up to a big impact is important, too.

“That’s a good example of a cheap and easy way to save money,” O’Malley says, “and do what’s right for the environment.”

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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 14, Issue 4 (April 2024).

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