New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition’s New Initiative to Electrify Transportation

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The New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition (NJCC) has reported a new initiative that could prove major for the electrification of New Jersey’s transportation infrastructure. In March 2020, New Jersey happily saw $20 million in proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This is the first payout since they rejoined the agreement. This initiative is the first of its kind—a mandatory, market-based program aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the US. These proceeds will not only help New Jersey reduce their emissions but trailblaze the way for new solar sectors installations, technologies, and ecological restoration projects as well as create better financing mechanisms and improve solar vehicle technologies. 


According to the Strategic Funding Plan, developed by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the Board of Public Utilities, and the Economic Development Agency, 60% of funds will be allotted to the Economic Development Agency, and 40% will be split up between the Board of Public Utilities, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. The funding plan goes into further detail, outlining four main initiatives including organizing clean transportation, creating a Green Bank for the state, promoting blue carbon in the world’s coastal ocean ecosystems, and boosting forests. 


As of April 17th, the New Jersey Economic Development Agency released the state’s plan of investing $80 million annually in “programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, drive forward projects that boost clean energy and create jobs, protect the health of residents in environmental justice communities, and increase the resiliency of coastal communities.” 


New Jersey’s Climate Change Policy and 2020 Energy Master Plan

In Governor Phil Murphy’s 2020 Energy Master Plan, his administration has set a statewide goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. The initiatives mentioned above were also a part of his climate change policy approach. New Jersey formally re-entered the emission trading agreement in early 2020 after two years of being on the outs. They rejoined alongside Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island. The state had been one of the original participants in the regional program. The proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative will be used to aid the initiatives and support the goal of Governor Murphy’s 100% carbon-neutral electricity generation by 2050, with a focus on the state’s largest emitter—the transportation sector.


The state of New Jersey houses over 9 million residents, 21 counties and over 500 municipalities, making it one of the most densely populated states in the US. Out of over 6 million vehicles registered in New Jersey, almost 4 million are cars and the remaining 2 million are trucks and other commercial vehicles. With those facts and figures in place, no one is surprised by the transportation sector’s emissions, accounting for 71% of nitrogen oxide emissions and 42% in greenhouse gas emissions. Because of the location of the state, and its many roadways and waterways, there are significant transportation related challenges New Jersey will have to overcome to achieve 100% carbon-neutrality.


Emissions in EJ Communities in New Jersey

Because of location, most Environmental Justice (EJ) communities in New Jersey grapple with the transportation sector’s emissions. Oftentimes, low-income housing is located along the major road and waterways of these sectors, leading to higher rates of pollution in these areas. This causes health conditions like asthma, lung disease, and cancer for many. Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan takes this into account and recognizes the need to reduce the emissions from the transportation sector so the EJ communities start feeling some relief. This is where the initiatives of the RGGI Strategic Funding Plan comes into play. As stated, this plan is focused on organizing clean and stable transportation with a focus on electrification, which is echoed throughout Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan. Both plans highlight the need for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at multi-family homes, hotels, and places of business as well as light-, medium-, and heavy-duty hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) charging stations at commercial and industrial institutions. 


New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Using VW Trust

Along with the funds from the RGGI’s plan, the NJDEP aims to use the Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Environmental Mitigation Trust to help fund over $35 million worth of projects to replace old machinery and vehicles to ones that run on electricity. Additionally, the VW Mitigation Trust will assist with EV charging station infrastructure and design, allotting another $7.6 million.

Commissioner Catherine McCabe stated, “New Jersey’s transportation sector is a major source of both greenhouse gases and pollutants that threaten the health of our residents. This injection of millions of dollars will grow the clean energy economy and protect our residents against climate threats.” 

Supplementary Initiatives Aimed to Electrify NJ’s Transportation Sector

Governor Murphy’s Energy Master Plan, the RGGI Funding Plan and now the VW Mitigation Trust are all huge successes in New Jersey’s move to electrify the transportation sector. Additional initiatives include:

  • Increase in electric vehicle use – increased legislation and goals for more sales of public charging stations for EVs.
  • Partnership to Plug In initiative – this statewide partnership aims to build out and support necessary infrastructure for EVs in New Jersey.
  • It Pay$ to Plug-In Program – this program provides rebates to offset the cost of purchasing and installing EV charging stations. 
  • NESCAUM Statement of Intent – this understanding hopes to advance the deployment of medium- and heavy-duty hybrid electric vehicles.


While these initiatives are all strongly supported by the New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition, they have noticed none of these plans include other renewable energy sources, like natural gas, which is cheaper and more widely available. At Intersect Energy, we’re here to provide you with the most current energy news and comprehensive green solutions in our area. For all the latest solar energy happenings, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn.  

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Pollinator-Friendly Solar Initiatives

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One of the largest and most controversial factors that can potentially disrupt a solar install project is the location. The location is extremely important for likely solar sites and can oftentimes be met with local resistance. Solar cynics like to argue that the site is sitting on potentially productive land as well as the “industrial chic decor” of the installation itself isn’t a very welcomed sight.

We do have some good news to report for these controversial solar initiatives—according to a widening body of research, this resistance can be met with support if the solar projects are designed with greener, cleaner solutions in place. One trend we’re seeing that’s gaining momentum across the country is “pollinator-friendly” landscaping. This idea swaps out the use of gravel and turf to cover the exposed soil with pollinator-friendly vegetation, like grasses, native greenery, and wildflowers. The idea behind this practice is to encourage bees and other pollinators to visit these solar project sites, which is essential for helping boost and maintain local agriculture. 

Pollinators play an integral role in agricultural production in the United States, with approximately one quarter depending upon pollinators. Clearing out large fields for solar projects (1 MW of solar requires 5 to 10 acres of land) to be installed comes at the expense of these pollinators, who depend on this space for shelter and food. Pollinator-friendly landscaping is a common-sense solution to halt this happening and these areas can be potentially conserved for the future return to agriculture.   


Benefits of Pollinator-Friendly Solar Sites

Choosing pollinator-friendly landscaping while designing a solar site has many advantages. For starters, it can help to boost the overall output of the solar installation. A solar site covered with gravel, turf or crushed rock “can cut the solar project efficiency by half a percent for every two degrees of temperature increase above 77 degrees Fahrenheit”, says Rob Davis, director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy. “Thicker vegetation helps you mitigate the effects of heat and keep your solar farm operating at peak temperature.” says Davis. Other benefits developers have noticed are improved water and soil quality because of the deep root systems of the pollinator-friendly plants, as well as lower construction and solar site maintenance costs and improved economic impacts, like the introduction of solar honey.

Georgena Terry, author of a report on pollinator-friendly state policies also points out that these initiatives garner support from stakeholders because they are “feel-good initiatives that “have few detractors and appeal to both sides of the aisle.”


Pollinator-Friendly Solar Laws and Programs

A handful of states (7) now have pollinator-friendly solar landscaping design laws in place. In 2016, Minnesota became the first state to adopt a pollinator-friendly law, followed by Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New York, South Carolina, and Vermont. While Virginia has no specific laws in place, they have developed their own program, Pollinator Smart, designed to “provide incentives and tools for the solar industry to adopt a native plant strategy to meet soil and water control regulations, community needs, and the needs of our biosphere.”  

Many regions with no firm pollinator-friendly laws in place have developed their own unique programs that vary slightly. A common thread was seen throughout each program and that’s the use of a pollinator-friendly scorecard. This scorecard provides developers with entomologist-approved standards that are beneficial for the pollinators. 

 With more and more states gaining support and adopting successful programs and practices in favor of pollinator-friendly solar projects, we don’t see this trend slowing down any time soon. As Rob Davis has stated, “We’d really like to ensure that the land under and around the panels is benefiting us as much as the clean energy is.” At Intersect Energy, we always provide innovative and efficient green solar solutions to our clients. Stay up-to-date with all the latest news by following us on LinkedIn.

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