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(TRENTON) Legislation sponsored by Assembly Utilities Chairman Upendra J. Chivukula and Assemblyman John F. McKeon to create an Office of Clean Energy was approved on Monday by the full Assembly.

The measure (A-2888) would establish in law, a separate Office of Clean Energy (office), providing it with a well defined role and streamlining its operations.

The office would continue to be funded by the Societal Benefits Charge (SBC), a monthly fee on ratepayer bills, intended to fund the use and development of renewable sources and clean energy technologies.

“The unprecedented number of storms that have ravaged New Jersey in the past year-and-a-half underscore the urgency of slowing climate change, which scientists say is a major factor in the severe weather conditions that we have been experiencing. It is unacceptable that instead of fast-tracking a clean energy economy, the Christie Administration has raided more than $800 million in clean energy funds in the past three and a half years,” Chivukula (D-Somerset\Middlesex) said.

“By establishing a separate Office of Clean Energy with a well defined structure and reporting mechanism, the measure (A-2888) we sponsored would ensure greater accountability and transparency in the operations of the office and give the state Legislature a better understanding of the use of ratepayer funds,” he added.

“New Jersey’s Clean Energy Program is funded by a monthly fee that utilities levy on commercial, industrial and residential ratepayers known as the Societal Benefits Charge (SBC). These funds are intended to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide, the main cause of climate change and to incentivize the use and development of renewable sources like wind and solar and clean energy technologies. Raiding clean energy funds to plug budget holes tantamount to imposing a hidden tax on ratepayers, who have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in the past three and a half years to accelerate a clean energy economy. It is untenable that these funds have been raided to balance the budget,” McKeon (D-Essex\Morris) said.

“By requiring regular reporting by the Office of Clean Energy to the state Legislature, mandating appearances of its officers before legislative committees and the production of reports that would be available to the public, the measure would give the Legislature greater oversight over the development and implementation of clean energy programs in the State. It would also encourage New Jersey to compete nationally, by directing the office to conduct research and draft reports on clean energy programs in other states,” McKeon added.

Under the measure, the Office of Clean Energy would also be required to draft an annual report and transmit the report to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU), the Governor and the Legislature.

Under the measure, the mission of the Office of Clean Energy is to improve the efficiency of energy distribution and usage in this State; reduce the State’s reliance on fossil fuels and other fuels that create pollution and maximize, to the extent practicable, the proportion of the energy we use that is derived from renewable sources in this State.

The legislation directs the office to develop, draft, publish, and update as necessary, a plan to accomplish its mission that contains statistically verifiable benchmarks over a 25 year period; conduct research and draft reports on policy issues & programs run in other states, technologies and products that are related to its mission; utilize its funding to create programs that will assist the office in fulfilling its mission; testify before legislative committees on matters related to its mission; and coordinate educational programs and publish educational material related to its mission.