Published On: Tue, Jan 12th, 2016

New home energy program ahead for Lambertville, West Amwell residents

A transformer is delivered to the Rocktown Substation in West Amwell (Photo credit - FirstEnergy, Corp).

A transformer is delivered to the Rocktown Substation in West Amwell, N.J. (Photo:FirstEnergy Corp).

Lambertville and West Amwell residents received mailings from South Hunterdon Renewable Energy Cooperative (SHREC) last week detailing how they were to be enrolled in a new energy program starting in March.

The goal? To save citizens money for the second time around.

SHREC is an organization recognized by the state of New Jersey, and is comprised of the two municipalities, local public schools, and the Lambertville Municipal Utilities Authority. The group’s original goal was to cut energy costs for South Hunterdon public school district through development of a joint solar energy project planned near the West Amwell municipal building.

But back in 2013, the new group also saw potential energy savings beyond the schools, by authorizing a “community energy aggregation” (CEA) program for Lambertville and West Amwell residents “in the hope that more customers will yield a better rate.”

Bob Chilton, executive vice president at Gabel Associates, an energy and public utility consulting group, advised SHREC that the city could save residents money if they purchased electric supply in bulk. When finished, Lambertville Mayor David DelVecchio said, “Why wouldn’t anybody do this?”

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities allows for third-party suppliers to compete with the basic service generation power supply of JCP&L (as well as other providers). So in late 2013, Gabel, which is paid by the bidder, not by any municipality, put out bids for a contract and locked up rates. The lowest bidder was FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), a non-regulated affiliate of JCP&L. The price guaranteed by FES was lower than the cost of power offered by JCP&L and was procured through Basic Generation Service Auctions.

From March 2014 through June 2015, the lower rate saved Lambertville and West Amwell “over $300,000 in electricity costs combined,” according to the recently mailed letter from the Co-Op, or about $120 per household as stated to the Free Press by a Lambertville official.

Now, a new contract is about to go into effect in March 2016. This time the lowest bidder was South Jersey Industries, whose bid measured a 14 percent savings below the current average JCP&L supply price of $.1016/kwh. The letter noted that, “estimated savings are about $11 a month” or $231 per household until the end of the contract in December 2017, and “while highly unlikely, if the average JCP&L supply price falls below the SHREC CEA contract price you will be so notified, and you retain your ability to opt out of the program.”

Residents will be automatically enrolled. Just like before, JCP&L will continue to manage the infrastructure of the power lines and utility poles. If a household does not want to participate, the opt-out card should be signed and returned.

There is also green option, where residents can choose to receive 100% of their supply from renewable sources at a cost premium of an additional $.0175/kwh ($.1045 total), which is slightly higher than JCP&L’s regular supply price. Chilton explained how the renewable option works: “For every home that choses that (the green) option, the supplier is obligated to go out and purchase renewable energy certificates, which are tracked by the regional power grid,” he said. Interested parties have to call South Jersey Industries to opt-in to the renewable program at 1-(888)-816-6012.

3-year history of the ‘prompt’ month futures price of natural gas in the US (Screenshot - NASDAQ.com)

Three-year history of the “prompt” month futures price of natural gas in the U.S., with red stars approximately indicating when the SHREC bids were locked in. (Screenshot – NASDAQ.com)

Southern Hunterdon county receives its energy from the regional power grid, which is currently a mix of nuclear, coal, natural gas and renewables (New Jersey requires any retail supplier to have at least 15 percent renewable sources).

Since electric prices in our area are often tied to the price of natural gas (not to be confused with gasoline), locking in a rate when natural gas is low appears as a fiscally prudent move. Raritan Township and Flemington have also followed South Hunterdon’s lead, and are beginning a community aggregation program this spring.

For further information about government energy aggregation and the SHREC CEA program, check out the old FAQ sheet on Lambertville’s website.

 

About the Author

- Steve Chernoski is a writer, film director and teacher who lives in Lambertville. Here's his website: http://stevechernoski.com.

Leave a comment

XHTML: You can use these html tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>