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    New PSEG chief continues on energy giant’s green path


    September 6, 2022 - New Jersey Spotlight

     

      Credit: PSEG
      Ralph LaRossa, new CEO and president of PSEG

      Ralph LaRossa, the new chief executive officer and president of Public Service Enterprise Group, is quite certain how the state’s largest energy company needs to respond to a worsening climate crisis.

      “The challenges that face us are the same ones that face the state from an energy policy standpoint: trying to green energy delivery,’’ LaRossa said.

      LaRossa, 59, joined the company in 1985 as a young associate engineer before steadily rising through a variety of management positions in the company’s gas and electric operations.

      image

      But the Fortune 500 company he took over last week from longtime CEO Ralph Izzo is far different from the integrated energy giant he joined decades ago. It has shed its fleet of fossil fuel plants to become a utility-centric business focused on cleaner ways of delivering electricity to its more than 2 million customers.

      PSEG has closely aligned itself with the Murphy administration’s clean-energy goals by investing in solar energy and the new emerging offshore wind sector, and building charging stations for electric vehicles. The company also is a big backer of efforts by the state to have gas and electric customers use less energy.

      ‘From a consumer standpoint, it is not going to happen overnight. I don’t think you are going to get rid of natural gas by 2050.’ — PSEG CEO Ralph LaRossa

      LaRossa said those initiatives are crucial because many of these new technologies entail new expenditures that will increase customers’ utility bills. “How you offset that is while rates may be higher, we get people to use less,’’ he said in an interview last week with NJ Spotlight News. “We have to get people to use less of our product.’’

      LaRossa’s promotion to lead PSEG was long-expected as he moved through a series of high-level executive jobs under Izzo, the CEO with whom he worked closely the past two decades.

      Making the energy transition

      And now in charge, the new CEO said he knows energy transition for the state will not be easy. A former chair of the American Gas Association, LaRossa is skeptical about the state’s goal to electrify homes and buildings for heating by mid-century. The target is to replace natural gas with electric heat pumps, a proposal that appears to be the most contentious involving the transition away from fossil fuels.

      “To think that we are going to change out everyone’s homes in 27 years by 2050 is … I hope my furnace lasts longer than 27 years,’’ he said. “From a consumer standpoint, it is not going to happen overnight. I don’t think you are going to get rid of natural gas by 2050.’’

      New Jersey’s gas utilities — including Public Service Electric & Gas, a subsidiary of PSEG — are exploring ways to keep natural gas flowing through pipelines that ratepayers have spent billions of dollars building. For instance, LaRossa said natural gas usage can be reduced anywhere from 10% to 25% by mixing it with hydrogen, one alternative being pursued by utilities.

      LaRossa’s goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by continuing to eliminate methane leaks, get rid of cast-iron gas mains and explore more alternative gas sources.

      image

      “Can you reduce usage through energy efficiency? Absolutely,” he said. “Can you reduce usage by introducing hydrogen? Absolutely. I think it is incremental, though. There is not an on/off point.”

      LaRossa discounts questions about less reliability of the system as the state shifts to clean, but more intermittent, sources of power — like solar and wind energy. In part, that is because New Jersey can still rely on its nuclear power plants owned by PSEG Power in South Jersey. The recent Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Biden provides incentives to keep the sector viable, he said.

      LaRossa was chief operating officer of PSEG for more than two years until last week, a job that made him responsible for overseeing all the operating businesses of PSEG.

      Most of those businesses he led in executive positions, including PSEG Power as president and COO, and the same two positions at PSE&G from 2006 until 2017.


      The views expressed in content distributed by Newstex and its re-distributors (collectively, "Newstex Authoritative Content") are solely those of the respective author(s) and not necessarily the views of Newstex et al. It is provided as general information only on an "AS IS" basis, without warranties and conferring no rights, which should not be relied upon as professional advice. Newstex et al. make no claims, promises or guarantees regarding its accuracy or completeness, nor as to the quality of the opinions and commentary contained therein.

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