RGGI Withdrawal Could Cost New Jersey $680 Million in Future Revenue

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Could Trenton be making more money from carbon emissions?

As New Jersey debates continued participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a new report says the state risks hundreds of millions in future revenue, thousands of jobs, higher utility rates for consumers, and cleaner air.

The report from Environment New Jersey, Benefits of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, comes as the state legislature considers bills to re-insert New Jersey into RGGI after Governor Chris Christie called the program a failure and began pulling out of the compact in May 2011.

RGGI is a regional carbon emissions reduction system in operation across nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states (New Jersey was the tenth participating state). It is America’s only functioning cap-and-trade program, applies to all fossil-fuel burning power plants 25 megawatts (MW) or greater in size, and aims to reduce emissions 10 percent from 2009 levels by 2018.

Total 2011 emissions across the RGGI region were projected to fall 34 percent below the regional cap of 188 million tons of CO2, auction proceeds have, to date, generated $952 million in revenue for participating states, and an estimated 80 percent of auction proceeds have been invested in clean energy programs.

While RGGI’s benefits have been significant across the region, Environment New Jersey’s report put a much finer point on its local impact, finding:

  • Clean energy investments through RGGI have eliminated the need for 52,000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity from fossil fuel sources and cut emissions by 13,100 metric tons per year.
  • RGGI investments will save state consumers $150 million in utility bills.
  • RGGI has led to the installation of 7.5MW of solar energy in New Jersey and created 1,800 job-years of employment.

RGGI’s existing benefits to New Jersey are clear, but future potential benefits are even more significant by 2018, including:

  • Avoiding 127,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, the equivalent of taking 24,300 passenger vehicles off the road.
  • Eliminating demand for 461 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of centrally generated electricity per year – enough to power 52,000 homes.
  • Installing up to 730MW of clean energy electricity generation, including 100MW of solar power and 95MW of combined heat-and-power capacity.
  • Up to $171 million in auction proceeds at current program levels and up to $680 million in auction proceeds if the program were strengthened.

“With data like this, the right choice is crystal clear: New Jersey should remain in RGGI and continue to reap the economic and environmental benefits for decades to come,” said Matt Elliott of Environment New Jersey.

Legislation to reinstate New Jersey in RGGI has been passed by a State Assembly committee, but has not yet progressed to a full Assembly vote. A similar bill has been introduced in the State Senate by Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

Image courtesy of Mister Chou

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