When did the thought of promoting clean energy standards and practices become synonymous with any and every negative connotation folks can think of? There simply is no doubt that fossil fuels, as our nation's sole source for energy, is a dying industry. (If you’ll forgive the pun.) But its death is s-l-o-w, and many politicians can barely think five years ahead, much less 50 years. For the average citizen, like us, these are conversations of a larger philosophical nature that are unquestionably difficult to identify with. Especially, as we are often faced with more immediate concerns in our day-to-day lives. However, we should be mindful of this important issue.
With this in mind, I’ve introduced an initiative (A-972) that touches on the heart of the matter. It can have an almost immediate effect AND contributes to an energy-sensible policy for the future. My idea would create a $200 million financing pool that helps consumers pay for energy-reducing green infrastructures such as solar panels and appliances.
While ad dollars and strong scientific research have come together to urge consumers to seek energy alternatives to reduce their own costs and fossil fuel emissions, the roadblock is unsurprising. It’s more expensive, sometimes much more expensive to go green. What occurs is that consumers in the upper income tier (a minority) can afford these sensible changes, while most people (the majority) gasp when they see the difference in price. You might be for energy efficiency and reducing our reliance on foreign oil, but when you have to pay thousands of dollars more for energy efficiency improvements in your home, costs often triumph over preference and philosophy.
My proposal offers a practical, workable solution that benefits ALL New Jerseyans. The green infrastructure financing program would benefit both consumers and businesses. The loan program will reside under the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, which would issue bonds to finance the project. Consumers would repay the amount through a modest line item on their energy bills. The savings they can expect on their utility bill would make up for any modest increase from the surcharge. Businesses would benefit by offering a greater variety of energy efficient appliances, including heating and air-conditioning systems connected to solar panels, for example.
With implementation of this concept, we would join a handful of states who are at the forefront of this approach. Hawaii offers a similar program (dubbed “Green Market Securitization”), and other states, New York, California and South Carolina, have programs that help consumers overcome the financial burden of going green. Measures like this will not only help provide a pathway towards our nation's goal of energy self-sufficiency, but will also provide greater energy security and diversification. It will also create good paying jobs and support the effort to meet the renewable portfolio standards and energy efficiency requirements in New Jersey's evolving energy market.
I always think of our state as a leader, and in the area of clean energy, historically we have been one of our nation's best in this space. In recent years, that position has been strained largely in part to a misguided approach to clean energy and the necessary balance between economic and environmental interests. Some would have us believe that they are mutually exclusive ideals that cannot coexist, but those individuals would be wrong. Preservation of our environment and the growth and sustainability of our nation's economic fortunes are implacably linked.
I believe we should get back to being at the vanguard of this conversation on clean energy and green conservation methods. We can do this by supporting initiatives that make a difference, that assist everyone and that pay for themselves over the long haul. We might not be ready to think about a 50-year plan, but all of us will face reality when winter returns and we have to pay those skyrocketing utility bills. My idea at least gives all New Jersey residents the opportunity to get in the starting blocks as we race to address this issue.
“We can’t have an energy strategy for the last century that traps us in the past. We need an energy strategy for the future – an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.” - President Barack Obama, March 15, 2012
Couldn't agree with you more Mr. President!