Letters to the Editor 2019

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To the Editor: 

This writer asks why it is necessary for a wealthy institution with influence in Trenton to receive a rebate from New Jersey utility ratepayers.   

Recently, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) commissioners approved an energy efficiency reimbursement for Princeton University for $626,502.95. The NJBPU is required to approve any reimbursement above $500,000.  

Princeton University renovated and improved their student facilities and purchased HVAC equipment eligible for NJBPU energy efficiency rebates. The renovation project is estimated to save Princeton University 952,778 kWh and 124 kW or $134,957 annually. So, Princeton will receive $626,502.95 of state ratepayer money in a one-time payment and will save almost $135,000 every year on their electricity bills. 

The savings are a good thing for Princeton University. It is a wealthy private university with 5,328 students and 7,300 employees with benefits and an endowment of about $26.6 billion. The question is, wouldn’t it make more sense for a private institution with an endowment of $26.6 billion to pay for their own HVAC improvements?  

Princeton is in a much better position to pay than ratepayers in our state who have some of the highest electricity rates in the nation, are $95 billion in debt, have 1.6 million people out of work and 500,000 people on food stamps. 

Another consideration is the university employs Andrew Zwicker as communications director of the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab who is also an elected state representative from Legislative District 16.  

Zwicker is very supportive of renewable energy and as an employee of Princeton, one must wonder if there is a conflict of interest when it comes to making decisions regarding public policy and legislative efforts that benefit Princeton University. 

What is the intention of the New Jersey energy efficiency reimbursement program and where might this end? Princeton will save about $135,000 every year on their electric bill without a rebate.  

Why do state ratepayers have to contribute more to Princeton?  Institutions with money and power should not rely on state ratepayers with neither to make their clean energy goals a reality. 

The New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate should get involved in this situation and request the NJBPU and Princeton to give the money back as a donation to the NJBPU Utility Assistance Program to help New Jersey residents who are behind on their electric bills.   

The NJBPU should change their regulations for the energy efficiency program, so that organizations with more than $1 billion on the balance sheet are not eligible for rebates. 

The whole focus in the New Jersey Energy Master Plan with its financial incentives for energy efficiency and green energy is called into question if the purpose is to transfer money from ratepayers to wealthy and influential organizations. 

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