Final New Jersey Energy Master Plan Makes Way for Microgrids

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy this week unveiled the state’s energy master plan, which includes provisions to facilitate the proliferation of microgrids in the state.

town center microgrid

Atlantic City has proposed a 19.2 MW town center microgrid that would serve casinos, a medical center and other building. Photo by ESB Professional/Shutterstock.com

The plan is intended to move the state toward a goal of 100% clean energy by 2050. To bolster the plan, Murphy also signed Executive Order No. 100, which directs the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to develop the regulations needed to implement the plan.

Under the energy master plan, the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) is charged with directing the state’s utilities to develop integrated distribution plans, as well as rules that support bi-directional power flows and plans for a pilot non-wires solutions program as an alternative to traditional infrastructure investments by mid-2020.

The regulatory reforms, which the governor’s office refers to as PACT, for Protecting Against Climate Threats, are slated for adoption by January 2022.

Learn more about New Jersey microgrids at Microgrid 2020, June 2-3 in Philadelphia.

Among the goals of the plan is electrification and grid modernization, which the plan recognizes as the “backbone” on which the transition to a clean energy economy will rely.

The plan mentions microgrids as one of the benefits of electrification, along with energy storage, demand flexibility, energy efficiency, load shifting, decentralization, and decarbonization.

Microgrids are mentioned several times in the plan in connection with electrification and non-wires solutions (NWS).

The other goals of the final plan – a draft version was released last summer – call for:

  • Reducing energy consumption and emissions from the transportation sector, including encouraging electric vehicle adoption and electrification of transportation
  • Accelerating deployment of renewable energy and distributed energy resources, such as offshore wind, community solar, and energy storage
  • Maximizing energy efficiency, including enacting 0.75% and 2% utility energy efficiency standards for natural gas and electricity, respectively, and strengthening building and energy codes and appliance standards
  • Reducing energy consumption and emissions in buildings, including the expansion of statewide net zero carbon homes incentive programs
  • Supporting energy planning in underserved communities
  • Expanding clean energy jobs through investment and research and development efforts

New Jersey has highlighted the role of microgrids in meeting one of the three key aims of its energy master plan, protecting the state against the threat of rising sea levels.

Action already underway to build more microgrids in New Jersey

In 2017, the BPU granted $2 million to 13 towns to conduct microgrid feasibility studies. Funding for the Town Center Distributed Energy Resource  Microgrid feasibility studies was used to determine if critical facilities could be connected into a microgrid to provide power and essential services in the event of a power outage.

In June 2019, the BPU approved a $4 million budget for a second phase incentive program for the detailed design of the town center microgrids. In December 2019, the BPU issued a straw proposal and conducted a stakeholder meeting for phase two of the program. This year, the BPU expects to solicit competitive applications from the town center feasibility study participants, evaluate applications, and issue detailed design grants.

Separately, the BPU is working with the Department of the Treasury to examine the feasibility of a Statehouse Complex microgrid project, and whether the Statehouse Complex and Trenton microgrid projects could be combined.

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Additionally, NJBPU, in partnership with the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, received a $300,000 grant from the US Department of Energy for a microgrid financing study that will produce a financing tool for microgrid developers.

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