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New Jersey to give a boost to transportation electrification with RGGI funds

Over the next three years, New Jersey will put most of the money gained from the state's participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative toward efforts to speed up the transition to electric transportation, according to a plan released April 17.

New Jersey recently rejoined the program, known as RGGI, which places a cap on regionwide carbon emissions from power plants in 10 states. Most of the CO2 allowances issued by participating states are allocated through quarterly auctions, with states deciding how to use the auction proceeds.

In New Jersey, the state Department of Environmental Protection, Economic Development Authority and Board of Public Utilities are responsible for doling out funds raised from the auctions. Under the new plan, which sets out how the state will allocate funds from 2020 through 2022, the agencies also will put some of the money toward the establishment of a green bank and the protection and enhancement of coastal ecosystems and forests.

The biggest share of the funds, 75%, will go to transportation electrification, with a focus on cutting emissions from transportation sources in communities disproportionately affected by environmental damage and climate change. All three of the agencies will have a role in supporting programs that work toward that goal.

The transportation sector is the largest emissions source in the state, accounting for 42% of New Jersey's net greenhouse gas emissions. The state's energy master plan released in January envisions that almost all of the transportation sector will be electrified by 2050.

According to the RGGI funding plan, the state Economic Development Authority expects to support the deployment of electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles by commercial and industrial establishments through grants and loans to fund vehicle purchases and the buildout of high-capacity, fast-charging infrastructure. The agency also plans to promote the development of medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicle supply chain activities in New Jersey.

"In this way, RGGI funding can support not only the deployment of more medium- and heavy-duty electric vehicles in the state, but it can also help enable the state to play an important role in the production and marketing of these vehicles for sale both within and outside of New Jersey," the plan said.

For its part, the Board of Public Utilities expects to help develop new or enhance existing programs that enable low- and moderate-income households to take part in and benefit from state efforts to improve access to clean transportation. The Department of Environmental Protection, meanwhile, expects to continue to help replace medium- and heavy-duty diesel-fueled vehicles with electric vehicles, among other things.

Under the plan, the green bank is to get 15% of RGGI proceeds. To be established by the Economic Development Authority, the green bank will focus on "improving capital access for those who have traditionally had more difficulty in accessing the benefits of participation in the green economy," the plan said. For instance, the bank could support rooftop solar projects in low-income areas or energy efficiency retrofits for smaller businesses, the plan said.

Finally, 10% of the funds will be used to help the Department of Environmental Protection back initiatives to support New Jersey's salt marshes, tidal wetlands, seagrass beds and forests. The plan noted that coastal ecosystems not only help create buffers from storms and flooding but also can store CO2. Forests, too, can store CO2 and also provide shade and reduce the need for air conditioning.

The other RGGI states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.