There was a time when the debate over the nation’s economic future boiled down to the question: “Do you want a clean environment, or good jobs?”
In reality, New Jersey is showing that we need, and can have, both of these things. Three times as many New Jerseyans work in solar and wind electricity generation as in fossil fuel electricity generation. Seventy-nine percent of energy generation jobs in New Jersey are already clean — meaning they relate to renewables or energy efficiency — and they employ 41,000 in-state workers, according to an analysis released last month that was based on the latest U.S. Department of Energy data.
In this clean energy economy, energy efficiency is a force to be reckoned with. At both the federal and state level it leads all categories of energy jobs, employing more than 31,000 New Jerseyans. Energy efficiency jobs put people to work in our neighborhoods, downtowns, and factories, whether manufacturing Energy Star® appliances and LED lights or installing efficient HVAC systems, and 64 percent of them are in construction. These jobs are always local, and will never be shipped out of state.
Investments in energy efficiency provide compound economic benefits, saving money for consumers and businesses by reducing waste, lowering consumption, and averting the need for more costly options like building new generating capacity. Compared to these other options, energy efficiency is 50 to 75 percent less expensive, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
Energy efficiency, solar and wind generation produce no direct emissions and use almost no water, whereas gas-fired electric generation emits carbon dioxide and uses lots of water. The health and environmental advantages of clean energy jobs are clear.
New Jersey is positioned to dramatically grow clean energy jobs over the next decade, if we take the right steps. But, state energy efficiency policies are not keeping up with other leading states, and while the offshore wind industry has enormous potential to be a major energy player in the state, it’s stalled by the Christie administration.
New Jersey should consider adopting an energy efficiency resource standard similar to other states. From 2006 to 2016, New Jersey tumbled from 7th to 24th place on ACEEE’s national annual energy efficiency scorecard. The state should also move quickly to finalize regulations that allow offshore wind development.
Renewables like wind and solar, and energy efficiency are demonstrating that a clean environment and strong economy can indeed go hand-in-hand in New Jersey.
When it comes to New Jersey’s energy future, we don’t need to make either-or choices – and there’s a long list of reasons not to.
-Tom Gilbert, Campaign Director, ReThink Energy NJ