SOMA to receive cleaner energy

MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The Maplewood Township Committee unanimously approved a resolution April 2 with a vote of 4-0 to purchase electricity from Direct Energy LLC, an alternative electrical supplier to PSE&G. Committeeman Greg Lembrich was absent from the meeting.

The township is the lead agency in the six-town Sustainable Essex Alliance, an energy aggregate created a year ago to combine purchasing power to net a contract for electricity supply resulting in individual household savings. Along with South Orange, Verona, Glen Ridge Montclair and Millburn, Maplewood approved a 17-month contract beginning in July that will save residents 11 cents per kilowatt hour of greener electricity.

Robert Chilton, an energy consultant from Gabel Associates Inc., who has been working with the towns on the aggregate for the last year, attended the meeting to discuss the contract. According to Chilton, the SEA has been split into two groups based on the utility company that serves them. Maplewood, South Orange, Verona, Glen Ridge and Montclair are served by PSE&G while Millburn is served by JCP&L.

“Over the last year we’ve been developing a bid process to set up a bid to seek power for residents of the participating towns at a cost lower than what the utility is charging and with a high renewable energy content,” Chilton said at the meeting. “We asked for our supply from suppliers that have about double the state-mandated amount of renewable energy.”

According to Chilton, Direct Energy LLC will provide energy that is 41 percent renewable, as opposed to the 21 percent mandated by the state. Two different suppliers provided bids for 15, 17 and 24 months.

“We received very good bids for the PSE&G group,” he said. “The bids for the JCP&L group were only slightly below the price that JCP&L charges, so for the group we’re recommending that no contract award be made and we keep the bid open.”

As such, the towns of Maplewood, South Orange, Verona, Glen Ridge and Montclair will be contracting with Direct Energy, while the bid for a supplier for Millburn will remain open. The 17-month contract for the PSE&G group will provide savings of 10 percent to the residents in the PSE&G towns, which Chilton said translates to $150 per month for the typical household.

“That is including the extra renewable energy content,” he said. “When you see third-party suppliers marketing if they’re offering an enhanced renewable energy product, those are typically well above what PSE&G is charging for a green product. This is because we have the benefits of a cooperative pricing system, we have purchasing power and were able to get a price 10 percent below PSE&G with the renewable energy content.”

Mayor Vic DeLuca said at the meeting that there are about 36,000 customers in the five PSE&G towns. If 80 percent participate, there will be a savings of about $4 million. Maplewood’s share would be about $1 million.

“Our combined populations gave us an advantage in negotiating for cheaper and greener electrical power. Utility cost-savings for our residents; greener energy for our planet: This is an outcome we are very proud of,” DeLuca said in a press release on April 9. “We are so proud to be on the cutting edge of government-energy aggregation, and proud to represent like-minded communities in this effort. It is incumbent on local officials to do their part to stem the disastrous effects of climate change.”

South Orange Trustee Walter Clarke, the representative from South Orange who was working on the SEA initiative, is also the liaison to South Orange’s Environmental Commission. In an email to the News-Record on April 11, he said the village will benefit both financially and environmentally.

“The environmental benefit is that this agreement requires double the amount of renewable energy in that supply. Therefore this was a chance to make every household in South Orange — and the other towns — a little bit greener and wealthier without them having to do anything,” Clarke said. “That was an opportunity I could not pass up. The program also has an energy conservation program which we hope residents will take advantage of to make themselves even greener and wealthier. All of the other environmental initiatives we undertake in South Orange are about moving the community closer to sustainability and fostering a culture of green awareness and conscious living so this dovetails nicely.”

South Orange will hold a public information session on Thursday, May 16, at 7 p.m. at the Baird Community Center, 5 Mead St. in South Orange, to further discuss the energy aggregation program.

“We were able to use the purchasing power of our combined towns to get a win for our residents and a win for the planet — cheaper and greener electricity,” village President Sheena Collum said in an April 12 press release. “This is the culmination of a process years in the making and a great example of cross-border collaboration in service of the public. The result of these five towns joining together will be millions of dollars in energy savings across all of our communities and each household will be a little bit greener, too.”

Because Maplewood is the lead agency, it was the only town in the SEA that had to vote on the resolution. DeLuca said that South Orange, Verona, Glen Ridge and Montclair all approved the contract and gave the Maplewood Township Committee the go-ahead to approve the contract. The committee also voted to leave open the bid for Millburn’s energy.