New Jersey residents may be surprised to know that a portion of their utility bill pays for state facility utilities and energy costs at New Jersey Transit. New Jersey’s proposed budget for 2017 includes a reallocation of $112 million from the Clean Energy Fund to pay for several of New Jersey government’s utility bills. A recent NJSpotlight.com article acknowledges that this is not new, noting that “since (Governor) Christie took office, more than $1 billion in Clean Energy Funds has been siphoned off to help balance the state budget….” In the same article, Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey, is quoted as stating, “I don’t think average people know that part of their utility bill is being spent to go to the state budget.”
The Clean Energy Fund supports the New Jersey Clean Energy Program, a program that “promotes increased energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable sources of energy including solar, wind, geothermal, and sustainable biomass.” The publicly funded energy efficiency program has been in place since 1999, and according to energy.gov, the “electricity restructuring law paved the way for funding of energy efficiency by implementing a non-bypassable surcharge on retail sales of both electricity and natural gas.”
The recent NJSpotlight.com article explains that “under the proposed budget, New Jersey Transit would receive $62 million from the energy fund…” which raised approximately $344 million for the clean energy program in the current budget.” Last year, the New Jersey Office of Legislative Service projected that “for typical residential customers, the surcharge runs about $73 a year on their electricity bill and about $89 annually on their gas bill.”
Critics have complained for years about the siphoning off of these funds to fill holes in the state budget, with environmentalists and industry advocates expressing that “New Jersey is lagging in its efforts to promote clean energy and energy efficiency programs because of repeated raids on funding for the projects….”
“These funds should be used as intended to reduce energy consumption and make a positive impact on our environment,” said Tom Gilbert, campaign director — Energy, Climate & Natural Resources for New Jersey Conservation Foundation and ReThink Energy NJ. The ReThink Energy NJ website shares information on steps New Jersey citizens can take to conserve energy, from getting a home energy assessment to replacing appliances with energy-efficient models and installing a programmable thermostat.