Matt Elliot, 's global warming and clean energy advocate, said he was particularly concerned about Christie's plan to phase out the Societal Benefits Charge, which raised from 2001 to 2010 to support New Jersey's Clean Energy Program.
The charge is imposed on all customers of the state’s investor-owned electric and gas utilities and equates to nearly 4 percent of annual energy bills. So far this year, nearly 80 percent of funds raised have gone to electric and natural gas efficiency programs, while 4.5 percent have gone to renewable energy initiatives and 13.5 percent to clean energy manufacturing.
"It is hands down the biggest reason why we have become one of the nation’s clean energy leaders," Elliot said.
"Instead of supporting the state’s efforts to move toward clean energy, [Christie] is actually scaling back on a whole set of programs that are working and frankly should be expanded."
John McKeon, the Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Chairman, said that the governor's earlier move to exit RGGI undermines his pledge to up the ante on energy efficiency and clean energy in the state.
"[The plan] rings hollow in light of last week’s announcement to pull out of RGGI," he said.
Business leaders, however, see the scale back of renewables targets and solar energy incentive programs as a boon to industry in New Jersey.
"We are very encouraged that [Christie] is taking an effort to have an affordable and practical plan, and looking at ways to reduce energy costs for businesses is something that we are very supportive of," said Sara Bluhm, vice president of energy and environment for the , which has 22,000 member companies.
She noted that a 2010 study by Rutgers Center for Energy, Economic and Environmental Policy found that New Jersey's state policies, including the Societal Benefit Charge, drive up residential electric bills by 26 percent each year.
"Being able to chip away at those costs helps to lower the overall cost of energy and business within the state," she said.
Michael Egenton, senior vice president of the , said that Christie’s renewables target of 22.5 percent by 2020 was a "realistic, attainable goal."
The chamber represents 1,700 businesses ranging from mom-and-pop shops to some of America’s largest corporations, he said.
"We like what we see, and it is certainly a more business-friendly EMP [than Corzine’s] that takes into consideration those costs of energy for our business members," Egenton said.
"We are very pleased that there is a diverse portfolio that includes a lot of the different sources of energy and that includes renewables, but at the same time recognizes that nuclear has to be part of that discussion as well as natural gas and alternative forms of energy."