"The cheapest energy plant is the one you don’t have to build,” says #b#Stephen Humes#/b#, a lawyer who advises clients on energy regulations, renewable energy project development, and environmental issues.
Advances in technology, coupled with supportive government programs — especially in New Jersey — present opportunities for energy developers and users alike who promote cheaper and cleaner energy, he says. “There is an energy strategy in New Jersey to lower the cost of energy and reduce reliance on fossil-generated energy,” says Humes.
So far solar energy offers the greatest promise. “There are significant reasons to take a look at solar energy,” Humes says. “It is a no-brainer to consider solar.”
Humes will moderate an Energy Innovations Panel Discussion at the New Jersey Technology Council Clean Energy Summit on Thursday, September 23, at 7:30 a.m. at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Cost: $120. Visit http://www.njtc.org.
Humes grew up in Haddonfield. His father sold printing services to insurance companies. His mother stayed home, though she remained involved with her family’s shop that cleaned and repaired boilers.
Humes entered Fairfield University in Connecticut as a biology major. By chance, he joined and later became editor of the student newspaper. He quickly developed a love for journalism, leading him to take a second major, in communications. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1986.
Once out of school, journalism attracted Humes first. He landed a job as a newspaper reporter at the Bridgeport Post, now the Connecticut Post, in 1989.
“I was always interested in energy and the environment, which is why I initially focused on science in college,” Humes says. “As a reporter, I often covered environmental issues. I decided to get a law degree to enhance my journalism skills,” he says. “I was filing Freedom of Information cases and working on some federal law cases.”
Humes enrolled in night classes at Quinnipiac University, where he earned a law degree in 1993. “After I got my law degree, I concentrated on covering environmental issues.”
He left the Post later in 1993 to practice law with the Southern Connecticut Gas Company, where, Humes says, “I cut my teeth as a lawyer on environmental and energy issues.” Seventeen years later, Humes retains a keen interest in journalism. “I sometimes imagine I could work for again for a good news organization.”
About 10 years ago Humes joined the Hartford office of the McCarter & English law firm, where he is an environmental and energy partner. Many of his clients are associated with power plant, photovoltaics, cogeneration, and liquefied natural gas and pipeline facilities.
New Jersey takes the lead. Humes calls New Jersey a leader with alternative energy, noting the state is second only to California in the development of solar energy — and first, based on per capita spending. “While all states in the Northeast have made inroads into developing alternative energy, New Jersey has been by far the most active,” he says.
New Jersey’s master plan calls for renewable energy to provide 30 percent of the state’s energy by 2020. Today renewable sources, including solar, wind, and landfill gases, provide 3 percent of the state’s electrical energy. Solar energy accounts for the largest share of renewable energy manufactured in New Jersey
The state has provided more than $322 million for about 5,800 installations with a solar energy capacity of 180 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 36,160 homes in New Jersey.
“The marketing opportunity for solar energy is real,” Humes says. “The cost for solar energy in New Jersey is now below market rate. Commercial and industrial users can pursue solar projects for rooftops or at ground level with no cash outlay and no cost to the property owner.”
Energy companies can install the solar panels and employ “net metering,” which means the user only pays for net energy used. The energy company installs a two-way meter, which spins one way when the user is drawing energy from the grid. The meter spins the other way when the user is producing excess energy, which is then directed to the grid for other customers. The user is thus credited with this energy contribution.
#b#Government help#/b#. State and federal governments are offering incentives to encourage homeowners and business to add solar power. So far, nearly $200 million worth of solar rebates has been paid out in New Jersey alone. Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SERCs), which are awarded for every megawatt of power generated, can be sold to utility companies as well. These increase the return on solar investment, with the certificates trading at around $600 or more.
In addition, the federal government offers a 30 percent investment tax credit to businesses and homeowners who initiate solar projects.
“While the tax credit isn’t available to nonprofit organizations,” Humes says, “there are ways around that. A third party can own and operate the solar project, and pay the nonprofit organization the value of the tax credit. The solar opportunity in New Jersey is very desirable.”
#b#Demand shift#/b#. There are other technologies that reduce consumption of traditional energies that are gaining traction. Demand-shifting technology, for example, is designed to lower peak-day energy demand, taking the burden off energy plants.
Noveda Technologies Inc. of Branchburg, Humes says, manufactures equipment that monitors a building’s energy use, as well as its mechanical and environmental systems in real time. Today Noveda is monitoring more than 150 buildings, including the Newark public schools, the Morristown Wastewater Plant, and the Atlantic County Utility Authority’s wind farm — the largest on the East Coast.
Noveda’s clients use the monitoring equipment to recognize opportunities to reduce energy use through low and no-cost operations and maintenance improvements. For example, the Liberty Science Center reduced its annual energy consumption by 42 percent using the Noveda system.
Humes also notes a Colorado Company, Ice Energy Inc., which stores energy off-peak, when electricity generation is cleaner, more efficient, and abundant, and delivers it for cooling during the following day when demand is peak. At night the company’s Ice Bear system freezes 450 gallons of water in an insulated tank. The ice is then used help to meet peak air conditioning demands during the day.
#b#Wind energy#/b#. New Jersey has committed to developing offshore wind energy. The new Offshore Wind Economic Development Act offers incentives, including financial aid and tax credits, to attract wind energy developers to the state’s waters. In addition, two offshore wind development companies, Fishermen’s Energy of Cape May and Deepwater Wind of Hoboken, already have plans to develop wind energy offshore.
#b#Geothermal#/b#. Humes says this is another area Ne Jersey is investing in. The technology, which draws heat from the ground, is being developed in Northern California and is well established in such countries as Iceland and New Zealand. But whether either of these sources is viable for New Jersey is debatable. For now, the sun shows the way.
“There are many factors to consider before a company commits to an alternative energy program,” Humes says. “Solar offers benefits that are most favorable right now make sense above all other energy alternatives in the New Jersey market.”