By Jaimie Julia Winters
The government energy aggregation Montclair joined over the summer, part of an effort to seek cleaner energy at lower rates, will probably not get that energy until next year.
Montclair teamed up with Maplewood, South Orange, Millburn, Glen Ridge and Verona to bid on behalf of 53,000 households for a cleaner energy source. The group is now one of the largest community energy aggregations in the state.
The 1999 Electric Discount and Energy Competition Act deregulated the energy market with the intention of bringing energy choice to New Jersey ratepayers.
Instead of PSE&G giving all customers the same default rate and energy source, energy deregulation encourages competition by giving customers a choice when it comes to who supplies their natural gas and electricity.
The group is looking for at least five percent lower than the current rate and to be at 40 percent renewable energy. Montclair is currently at 17 percent clean energy.
Gabel Associates is the consultant that will proceed with going out to bid for the five-town energy aggregate. The group was hoping to go out to bid in the fall and have bids back by Dec. 4. The Request for Proposal has not been published yet, but that may not be a bad thing, said Gray Russell, Montclair’s Sustainability Officer.
“Gabel is not confident we will get acceptable rates this time around. Now is not a good time to go out to bid,” said Russell.
Federal regulations require that an aggregation program show savings versus the utility-provided rates at the time of the bid.
Russell said homeowners were expected to save about $100 a year on average, or about $1 million for Montclair overall, through the aggregation.
The New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities reviews the contract ensuring that what is claimed to be renewable is clean energy.
“In New Jersey, if the switch is to more renewable energy, the program doesn’t have to necessarily save money. But we are looking to get savings for residents,” said Jesse Castellanos of Gabel Associates.
Currently, Montclair households can pick their own energy suppliers, and many already do in order to get cleaner energy, but it’s usually at a higher rate.
Councilman William Hurlock and Deputy Mayor Robin Schlager voted against the ordinance to join the aggregation, expressing concerns that rates could rise at a later date.
Montclair’s 70 government energy accounts are already part of an aggregation through the Essex-Hudson Regional Cooperative Purchasing System. It consists of 40 towns that have lowered energy costs by about 13 percent with 25 percent renewable energy.