Public Service Electric and Gas Co., New Jersey's largest utility, has  proposed a $4.1 billion plan to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions, including hundreds of millions for electric vehicle infrastructure, energy storage, and smart meters.

PSE&G says its six-year Clean Energy Future program would increase a typical residential bill about 50 cents a month in 2019, increasing to $7 a month by 2024. But it maintained that program would save customers $7.4 billion in "lifetime energy costs" through reductions in consumption.

Ralph Izzo, chairman of PSE&G's parent company, Public Service Enterprise Group, called the program a "historic investment" that would help meet Democratic Gov. Murphy's ambitious clean energy and climate goals.

Ralph Izzo, PSEG’s chairman and chief executive
ANDREW MAYKUTH / Staff
Ralph Izzo, PSEG’s chairman and chief executive

"This is in lockstep with Gov. Murphy's clean energy goals for the state," Dave Daly, the utility's president, said in a news briefing Thursday.

The proposal was greeted warily by New Jersey's ratepayer advocate and by large industrial users, who say PSE&G's latest effort would generate hefty guaranteed returns for the utility's shareholders to finance programs that best could be provided in the competitive market.

"From a utility perspective, it's attractive," said Steven S. Goldenberg, spokesman for New Jersey Large Energy Users Coalition. "From a consumers' perspective, these are very expensive programs."

New Jersey Rate Counsel Director Stefanie A. Brand, the state's ratepayer advocate, called the energy-efficiency proposal "pretty radical" because it would give the utility a virtual monopoly over conservation programs in its territory, including some work now managed by the state's Office of Clean Energy.

"You're taking something that's basically a competitive industry and inserting an 800-pound gorilla in there," she said.

Brand also said the estimated $4.1 billion cost does not include PSE&G's expected claim to recover "lost revenue" from lower electricity sales.

The proposal will require the approval of the Board of Public Utilities, the state regulator that operates in close harmony with the governor's office.

PSE&G has been building public support for its energy efficiency investment for more than a year, calling on the state to move away from a traditional rate structure that encourages utilities to sell as much energy as possible and toward a new system that provides incentives to promote efficiency and conservation.

Under the new proposal, PSE&G would spend:

  • About $2.8 billion on energy efficiency programs, including appliance rebates, smart thermostats, energy audits, weatherization, and seed funding for new energy-saving techniques. The plan includes elements aimed at low-income residents, multi-family developments, small businesses, and local governments.
  • $364 million for electric-vehicle infrastructure, including support for nearly 40,000 EV chargers, mostly for residential use, but also mixed-use and public fast-chargers. The program also includes projects for airports, ports, transit agencies and school districts to buy and operate electric vehicles.
  • $180 million for 35 megawatts of utility-scale energy storage capacity to buttress renewable energy production and to support outage management, microgrids for critical facilities and peak reduction for public sector facilities.
  • $800 million for an "Energy Cloud" program, whose primary feature would be the installation of 2.2 million smart meters, advanced infrastructure that allows the utility have two-way communication with customers' systems — and also to shut off customers remotely.

The Clean Energy Future proposal is PSE&G's latest plan to boost rates to pay for infrastructure investments, though the utility notes that customers bills have come down since peaking in 2008 before the energy prices declined dramatically because of the shale boom.

In addition to the new $4.1 billion energy-efficiency plan, the utility currently has a $2.5 billion Energy Strong II proposal before New Jersey regulators, in addition to a PSEG-initiated plan to recover about $300 million a year to support the state's nuclear industry.

PSE&G's complete Clean Energy Future filing

PSE&G's 761-page regulatory filing is available on the company's website: https://bit.ly/2R4OWBl