Research & Commentary: New Jersey Renewable Portfolio Standard

Published October 3, 2014

The New Jersey Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires all state utilities serving retail customers to procure 22.5 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable sources by 2021.

The law categorizes qualifying renewable sources into two classes: Class I and Class II. Solar, wind, wave or tidal, geothermal, landfill gas, anaerobic digestion, fuel cells using renewable fuels, and certain Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)-approved forms of biomass are Class I fuels. Hydropower facilities 30 MW or less and DEP-approved resource-recovery facilities are Class II fuels.

Legislators have also added two specific quotes, or “carve-outs,” for solar power and offshore wind power. Utilities must acquire at least 2,518 gigawatt-hours (GWh) from in-state solar electric generators by 2021, and 5,316 GWh by 2026. The law also mandates producing at least 1,100 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind power in the “near future.”

High total percentage requirements along with onerous carve-outs make New Jersey’s RPS among the most stringent in the nation. According to the Institute for Energy Research, New Jersey is not on track to meet the RPS. Only 1.53 percent of qualified renewable electricity was estimated to have been generated in 2009, far below the 6.5 percent requirement.

An April 2014 report by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University found by 2021, New Jersey’s electricity prices will be 10.92 percent higher because of the RPS, leading to a loss of 11,365 jobs and costing the average household an extra $95 per year in electricity charges.

New Jersey’s RPS is less effective that other states’ at reducing carbon dioxide emissions because of the specific quotas it requires from wind and solar, which the nonpartisan Brookings Institution has found are the two least cost-effective low-CO2 emissions technologies available.

New Jersey’s energy portfolio is already heavily dependent on nuclear and natural gas power for electricity generation, helping the state rank among the lower third of states in carbon dioxide emissions per megawatt-hour of generation. Rolling back the New Jersey RPS would help attract business investment, create jobs, and make energy more affordable for consumers, while keeping New Jersey a low-CO2-emitting state. At minimum, state lawmakers should consider repealing the solar and wind carve-outs, which research indicates produce far fewer benefits per dollar spent than other low-emission technologies, such as hydroelectric, nuclear, and gas combined cycle.

The following documents provide additional information about renewable energy and the policies that promote it.


Ten Principles of Energy Policy
Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast outlines the ten most important principles for policymakers confronting energy issues, providing guidance to help deal with ongoing changes in markets, technology, and policies adopted in other states, supported by a thorough bibliography.

The Economic Impact of New Jersey’s Renewable Portfolio Standard
An April 2014 report from the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University estimates the New Jersey Renewable Portfolio Standard will raise electricity prices by almost 11 percent by 2021, cost an average of 11,365 jobs, and cost the average household an extra $95 per year.

The Status of Renewable Electricity Mandates in the States
The Institute for Energy Research analyzed the practical effects of renewable electricity mandates and found states with mandates have on average of 40 percent higher electricity rates than those without such mandates.

Study of the Effects on Employment of Public Aid to Renewable Energy Sources
Researchers at King Juan Carlos University in Spain found each “green job” created in Spain cost about $750,000. Electricity rates would have to be increased by 31 percent to account for the additional costs of renewables.

How Less Became More: Wind, Power and Unintended Consequences in the Colorado Energy Market
Bentek Energy, LLC, a leading energy markets information company, evaluates the “must take” provisions of Colorado’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which forces coal plants to accommodate the intermittency of wind power by “cycling” generating units. The report finds the requirement creates inefficiency and produces significantly greater emissions.

Wind Farms vs. Wildlife
Clive Hambler, lecturer in biological and human sciences at Oxford University and a trained zoologist specializing in species extinction, describes the extent to which wind turbines kill wildlife.

Five Things CEOs Are Worried About in 2014
The Wall Street Journal outlines the five things CEOs are worried about that are outside their control in 2014, listing “Keeping Energy Costs Under Control” as number one. The information was polled from The Wall Street Journal CEO Council, a group of 33 CEOs, some from the country’s biggest companies.

Why Is Renewable Energy So Expensive?
A brief but useful essay in a January 2014 blog post for The Economist states countries with the most renewable power generation also have the highest electricity prices, and government efforts to abate this problem have been unsuccessful. The author notes high electricity prices may force many manufacturers to set up in less-“green” countries, which “might mean citizens end up consuming more carbon, through imports.” Such unintended consequences make the construction of more gas-fired power stations a superior strategy for cutting greenhouse gas emissions without raising electricity prices, the author concludes. 

A Global Transition to Renewable Energy Will Take Many Decades
Writing for Scientific American in January 2014, scientist and policy analyst Vaclav Smil notes, “[In the] U.S. and around the world, each widespread transition from one dominant fuel to another has taken 50 to 60 years.” Smil notes there are plenty of reasons to want to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, beyond greenhouse gas emissions, but current environmental policies “have been dismal.” Smil suggests the best way to foster an energy transition is to “avoid picking energy winners,” because such policies distort all-important investment and price signals and impede economic progress. 

IER Expert Testifies on Ohio’s Alternative Energy Standard
Testimony prepared by Travis Fisher, an economist at the Institute for Energy Research, examines the natural physical limitations of wind and solar power, arguing they might not be the technologies of the future simply because of a lack of scalability rather than a lack of subsidies. 

How Wind and Solar Power Are Polluting the Commons
Private lawyer and accountant John Petersen states our nation’s electric grid is no less important to an industrial society than our air or water. Regarding renewable power sources, he wrote, “the electric current they generate is inherently unreliable and intermittent, which makes it fundamentally destabilizing to the grid. That introduction of massive intermittency into a system that requires absolute stability is, by definition, pollution.” 

Why the Best Path to a Low-Carbon Future is Not Wind or Solar Power
Charles Frank, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, reports on his research on low-CO2 energy alternatives. Frank finds natural gas combined cycle is the cheapest low-CO2 energy alternative, even cheaper per kWh than power from coal or gas simple cycle plants. The most expensive alternatives are solar and wind. Frank says gas-combined cycle, nuclear, and hydroelectric are the most cost-effective options for transitioning to a low-CO2 future.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the Web site for Environment & Climate News at, The Heartland Institute’s Web site at  and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

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