MAPPING OUT REQUIREMENTS FOR TOMORROW’S ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE
Fundamental changes to ways electricity and gas will be delivered are in the offing, according to experts at NJ Spotlight roundtable
With the state pursuing more aggressive clean-energy policies, the energy sector will undergo a major transformation that will require fundamental changes in how and when electricity and gas are delivered.
At least that seemed to be the consensus of experts during a NJ Spotlight roundtable event Friday that focused on modernizing the state’s energy infrastructure, an issue fraught with challenges and not insignificant costs.
It also comes at a time of rapid technological changes and the need to upgrade an aging power grid to cope with integrating cleaner, but intermittent, energy sources into the mix, while facing pressure to make the entire system more resilient, the panelists agreed.
Former Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer, a keynote speaker whose city is now developing a microgrid to deal with future storms after being battered by Hurricane Sandy, stressed the importance of energy resiliency.
“We need to persuade the public that this is an investment that needs to be made,’’ Zimmer said. “Energy resiliency investments will save us in the long run.’’
Her community is one 13 New Jersey municipalities now assessing microgrids, a way of enhancing resiliency and reliability by relying on distributed energy resources, a localized way of providing power.
“We are looking at tremendous changes happening — really a transformation of the industry over the next five, 10, and 15 years,’’ said David Daly, president and chief operating officer for Public Service Electric & Gas, the state’s largest utility.
Those changes are being driven by a number of factors: new energy policies at the federal and state levels; the pace of technology innovations; and basically turning a century-old structure of integrated generation and transmission on its head, Daly said.
“New Jersey is really at a fork in the road when it comes to energy,’’ said Tom Gilbert, campaign director of Rethink Energy and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation.
“As we see it, we can either continue along the same path and prolong the use of polluting fossil fuels or take a new path, investing in renewable energy that will reduce emissions, clean our air and create good jobs, and spur new industries in New Jersey.’’
The way to achieve the reductions the state needs to attain its climate-change goals is to curb its increasing reliance on natural gas and ramp up its dependence on renewable energy, Gilbert said.
Hard to hit targets
But attaining those targets will involve major new investments in energy efficiency, new technologies to make the power grid smarter, and upgrades to the transmission system, as well as much more cooperation between grid operators and power systems — not just locally, but regionally as well.