Electricity Grid Think Tanks: Distributed Energy Resources are Vital to New Jersey’s Energy Transformation

Three energy expert organizations publish their recommendations for New Jersey’s 100% renewable energy future to meet Governor Murphy’s goals

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, the Center for Renewables Integration (CRI), Gridworks, and GridLab released a study that shows distributed energy resources (DER) such as local solar, storage, energy efficiency and electric vehicles must play a key role in realizing New Jersey’s target of 100% clean energy. The paper, The Role of Distributed Energy Resources (DER) in New Jersey’s Clean Energy Transition concludes that DER will provide new services for both utilities and customers, reduce overall energy demand, and create jobs across the state.

Last month, Governor Phil Murphy released the 2019 Energy Master Plan, which made New Jersey the 9th state to announce a 100% clean energy target. As the Draft Master Plan points out, roughly 49% of New Jersey’s electricity currently comes from fossil fuel generation. To meet Governor Phil Murphy’s goals, this report lays out specific guidelines to take advantage of DER in the following areas: Integrating DER, Embracing Electrification of Buildings and Transportation, Holistic Grid Planning, and Ensuring an Equity Lens in Planning.

“In 2001, the year before I became the President of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, New Jersey had 6 solar installations across the entire state,” said Center for Renewables Integration (CRI) co-founder Jeanne Fox. “We pioneered innovative solutions then and now have more solar installed than any state in the Northeast. The principals in this report build on our past progress and will keep New Jersey on the forefront of fighting climate change for years to come.”

Key recommendations from the study for the State of New Jersey include:

  • Let DER providers and distribution companies have the responsibility to integrate distributed resources through the following: interconnection reform, valued based compensation mechanisms, advanced inverter functionality and targeted incentives to extend the environmental and economic benefits of DER to all of New Jersey’s citizens. These efforts should be led by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities working with relevant distribution companies and conducted in consultation with contributing and impacted stakeholders.
  • Encourage strategic electrification of buildings and transportation to reduce emissions. This will improve air quality throughout the region, make energy more affordable for customers, and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Prioritize the deployment of clean technologies in low-income and environmental justice communities.
  • Conduct Holistic Grid Planning to assess different portfolios of bulk renewable and distributed energy resources that are capable of meeting New Jersey’s 100% carbon free goal.

“This paper outlines a clear path forward for distributed energy resources and will enable the New Jersey solar economy to thrive,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO at the Solar Energy Industries Association. “Alongside these best practices, we’ll need smart federal tax policies and a smooth transition to a new incentive program to continue New Jersey’s leadership on clean energy. We’re committed to engaging with the Board of Public Utilities and our partners on these short-term policy priorities as we work to promote certainty in the New Jersey solar market.”

“DER will play a critical role in helping New Jersey achieve 100% carbon free energy, and this paper offers excellent guidance for maximizing the benefits of DER on the grid. Community solar is poised to play a leading role as an eminently scalable distributed energy resource that can offer access to clean energy for all,” said Jeff Cramer, Executive Director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA). “We look forward to working with all DER providers and key decision makers in New Jersey to ensure community solar is largely included into the distributed energy resource mix that is currently being planned.”

People in over half of the United States have smart inverters in their homes. New Jersey, however, has a long way to go with only 1% penetration across the state. These devices enable two-way communication between energy producers and end users, which is critical for DER, and also can help the state avoid costly conventional transmission and distribution infrastructure spending.

“I commend Governor Murphy’s vision in his 2019 Draft Energy Master Plan, and am optimistic that the findings from this report will help ensure that New Jersey embraces DER as a way to gain resilience, reduce peak energy demand, and help customers save money on their utility bills,” said Ric O’Connell, Executive Director of GridLab.

In 2018, over 2 million electric vehicles were sold across the United States. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts that in 2040, 56 million EVs will be sold, and make up 57% of all passenger vehicle sales. In addition to promoting DER, New Jersey should continue to invest in the strategic electrification of its building and transportation sectors to meet and accelerate this demand.

“Millions of smart batteries living inside our cars, trucks and buses will sit on the edge of our grid, giving and taking electricity. Kudos to the authors of this important report that understand and highlight that in this way the electrification of transportation will play a significant role in transforming our energy systems to a low carbon future,” said Pamela Frank, Chief Executive Officer, ChargEVC.

Utilities and consumers alike are increasingly adopting Distributed Energy Resources and already see their benefits. Through strategic deployment of such technologies, the State of New Jersey can take advantage of lower cost resources in lieu of traditional grid investments, such as substations and pipelines. Appropriate planning, facilitated by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, will enable New Jersey to recognize the full value of DER services. Finally, proper integration of DER, through enhanced valuation of DER services, will enable a more seamless and cost-effective energy transition in New Jersey.

About the Center for Renewables Integration (CRI)

CRI’s mission is to inform and support the process of developing regulations that will enable renewable energy, both distributed and bulk-system connected, to comprise a very high percentage of the electricity generation mix, while maintaining reliability and minimizing cost impact.

About Gridworks

Gridworks’ mission is to convene, educate and empower stakeholders working to decarbonize electricity grids. Since 2010, Gridworks (formerly known as “More Than Smart”) has enabled this mission through four strategies: by identifying high-value challenges to decarbonizing electricity grids; convening stakeholders and providing them neutral ground, technical support and facilitation to identify break-through solutions to identified challenges; publishing and helping implement identified solutions; and adapting successful solutions to new markets.

About GridLab

GridLab is a national non-profit organization that provides comprehensive and credible technical expertise on the design, operation, and attributes of a flexible and dynamic grid to assist policy makers, advocates, and other energy decision makers to formulate and implement an effective energy transformation roadmap. GridLab offers technical expertise, training, and a connectivity platform for sharing information about the rapidly-evolving electric distribution grid landscape.

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Jae Riley

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