Recently, the Christie Administration produced its draft 2011 Energy Master Plan (“2011 Draft EMP”) in accordance with state law, N.J.S.A. 52:27F-14, the final version of which shall serve as the three-year update to the 2008 EMP. The current draft focuses on myriad ways to foster energy efficiency, promote in-State energy generation and facilitate the creation of a balanced energy portfolio that includes conventional, renewable and new, technologically advanced sources of energy production and storage tempered by a deep and abiding concern for the impact of current and proposed initiatives upon ratepayers and economic development. 


A complete description of the entire 2011 Draft EMP and its potential implications is well beyond the scope of this blog. However, one topic treated by the 2011 Draft EMP that warrants brief discussion is biomass and waste-to-energy (“WTE”) production. This is a significant alternative source of fuel, which deserves to be reevaluated by the Legislature in meeting the goals and objectives of the Energy Master Plan. “New Jersey . . . has abundant ‘home grown’ biomass potential[, which] includes both agriculturally-derived fuel, as defined by statute, as well as residential and industrial waste material that is used to produce energy, either directly or indirectly.” Indeed, the Garden State is one of the largest producers of garbage per capita within the United States. However, “[o]nly 17% of that waste is converted into energy by the State’s five municipal solid waste incinerators, leaving the rest as an untapped energy resource.”


The Christie Administration stops short of proposing or advocating any substantial new incentives for biomass or WTE. However, it recommends possibly revisiting how sustainable biomass and waste-to-energy are classified under the State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) in light of price discrepancies between solar renewable energy certificates (“SRECs”) and renewable energy certificates (“RECs”) for other Class 1 and Class 2 renewable energy resources in order to make their development more marketable. 


Certainly, our State government has already taken sizable steps to create a market for bio-energy. For example, just prior to leaving office as Governor, Jon Corzine signed legislation (P.L. 2009, c. 213), which is referred to as the “solar farm” bill, that (1) authorizes the installation and operation of biomass (as well as solar and wind) energy generation facilities on preserved farmland for the purpose of generating power or heat, (2) adds to the list of activities protected under the Right to Farm Act, N.J.S.A. 4:1C-1, et seq., the generation of power or heat from biomass (as well as solar and wind) and (3) qualifies biomass (along with solar and wind) energy generation as an “agricultural or horticultural use” under the Farmland Assessment Act of 1964, N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.1, et seq. Although the term “biomass” is not defined consistently throughout the solar farm bill, it essentially refers to “an agricultural crop, crop residue, or agricultural byproduct that is cultivated, harvested, or produced . . . and which can be used to generate energy in a sustainable manner.” 


More recently, Governor Christie approved Assembly bill A1052 as P.L. 2010, c.101, which supplements Title 52 of the Revised Statutes, requiring State entities generally to “consider the use of biofuels to replace the use of petroleum-based fossil fuels” and specifically to make such purchases “for heating equipment, or other similar combustion systems, motor vehicles, or other motorized equipment[]” provided that the State entity determines that (1) the cost of using biofuels is either the same or less than the cost of using fossil fuels and (2) the use of biofuels for the purpose in question is reasonable, prudent and cost effective. The term “biofuel” is defined under this new law as “liquid or gaseous fuels produced from organic sources such as sustainably grown and harvested crops including native noninvasive energy crops, agricultural residues and non-recycled organic waste including waste cooking oil, grease and food wastes, sewage and algae.” 


The first of these two enactments is noted in the 2011 Draft EMP as a statutory achievement promoting the use of renewable energy. 


A complete copy of the 2011 Draft EMP is accessible online. The Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”) has already held two hearings on the 2011 Draft EMP, which took place on July 26 and August 3, 2011, and is scheduled to hold one more on August 11, 2011, at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. The BPU will also accept comments on the 2011 Draft EMP through August 25, 2011.