New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday unveiled the state’s draft 2011 energy master plan (EMP), which among other things calls for coal-fired generation to be phased out in favor of natural gas.

The draft plan is a “greener and more affordable vision” to use, manage and develop energy in the state over the next 10 years and beyond, Christie said.

Last year the governor directed the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to revisit the EMP because of depressed economic conditions. State law requires the EMP to be updated at least once every three years.

“This plan represents my administration’s commitment to changing the way we produce, distribute and use energy as part of a broader emphasis on renewable sources of energy and economic growth,” Christie said. “The EMP supports the development of new energy-related technologies such as fuel cells, offshore wind and alternatively fueled vehicles while encouraging the developers, providers and support businesses related to these technologies to locate here in New Jersey.”

In the past year “global events have reminded the world that there are no easy options on the subjects of our dependence on oil, nuclear power and the mining of coal.”

The Macondo well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and the explosion at the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia, both last year, as well as the release of radiation at Japanese nuclear plants this year “underscore the reality that technology choices present risks to society and the environment,” the report said.

“Closer to home, the debate over extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York requires that we deal with the environmental ramifications attributable to reliance on an abundant, indigenous fuel.”

The state has implemented policy initiatives to incorporate both supply-side and demand-side resources for electricity production, which “have heightened New Jersey’s reliance on natural gas as a less carbon-intensive fossil fuel and expanded the amount of renewable resources in response to aggressive renewable portfolio standards (RPS),” the report said.

Because coal is “a major source” of carbon dioxide emissions, it “no longer will be accepted as a new source of power in the state. New Jersey will work to shut down older, dirtier peaker and intermediate plants with high greenhouse gas emissions.”

In addition to implementing new renewable sources of energy, New Jersey’s long-term capacity agreement pilot program, or LCAPP, “has resulted in awards for three new in-state combined-cycle generation projects that use clean-burning natural gas. These policy initiatives have heightened New Jersey’s reliance on natural gas as a less carbon-intensive fossil fuel and expanded the amount of renewable resources in response to aggressive RPS.”

The plan details five “overarching goals” for the state to pursue:

Also contemplated in the draft plan is the “safe expansion” of the interstate natural gas pipeline system.

“This plan supports enhanced reliability, lower energy costs and environmental protection in New Jersey,” said BPU President Lee A. Solomon. “It balances the needs of ratepayers with the state’s policy goals of promoting the state’s economic well being while safeguarding its air, water and land.”

The BPU plans to hold three public hearings on the draft EMP, which have not been scheduled.

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