New pilot program will help residents save money and protect the environment

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — The towns of Glen Ridge, Maplewood, Montclair, South Orange and Verona, all members of the Sustainable Essex Alliance, collectively announced on March 2 the launch of an innovative new pilot program that will help residents save money, improve their quality of life and protect the environment, all at the same time.

The towns in the Sustainable Essex Alliance recently authorized the third round of the energy aggregation procurement cooperative. Through this cooperative, the seven towns — Glen Rock and Livingston are also members of the SEA — combine their buying power to purchase the generation of electricity that is lower in price and greener in content. 

The first round started in July 2019 and ended in November 2020. The second round began in April 2021 and will end in August. 

“The second round will save a typical PSE&G customer about $20 and the energy supply will have a 40-percent renewable energy content; this compares to 23.5-percent for PSE&G,” Maplewood Deputy Mayor Vic DeLuca told the newspaper on March 6. As for the upcoming third round, “prices of electricity are very volatile, and if the bids come in too high, SEA will hold off on a new contract until the pricing is more favorable for our residents.”

Now, in addition to the cost and environment savings that come from SEA, area residents can benefit from the SEA Energy Solutions program, an opportunity for homeowners and households within the five communities to sign up for a no-cost, no-obligation virtual energy consultation online at https://seaenergysolutions.wee.green. The specialist will review the energy practices of interested residents and offer simple, cost-effective solutions that are tailored to their personal needs, all virtually.

“Each of the participating towns is excited to offer the SEA Energy Challenge program to its residents,” Glen Ridge Mayor Stuart Patrick said in a press release. “Whether people want to make their homes more comfortable or simply save money and the environment, the SEA Energy Solutions offers so many benefits to them as well as to their community.”

Among the choices available to PSE&G customers are home energy audits, lighting and appliance rebates, upgrades to high-efficiency heating and cooling, and even solar energy systems with incentives and attractive financing options. Through the virtual energy consultation, participants will be guided by their energy specialist as to which programs and incentives will best suit their needs. The number of participants is limited by town.

“I’m encouraging all South Orange residents to participate in this no-cost, voluntary consultation program that will help you save money and play a role in helping save the planet,” South Orange President Sheena Collum told the newspaper on March 7. “Our community is doing OK, but we can do so much more together if we all take some personal responsibility and be more thoughtful about our choices. This opportunity is low-hanging fruit. How do we live our lives in a more energy efficient way? You can find out by signing up, which I absolutely intend to do.”

Furthermore, the program will assist qualifying low- and moderate-income households to take advantage of a wide range of efficiency measures at little or no cost to such customers.

The SEA Energy Solutions program is intended as a pilot program that ultimately will help to create a full-scale residential energy efficiency outreach and energy-planning program for participating communities, including other towns in Essex County. 

“The beauty of the energy aggregation program is that residents are automatically enrolled and don’t have to do anything to save a few dollars and support the environment. If we are serious about addressing climate change, promoting a cleaner electric grid is critical. The SEA program increases demand for renewables, which will help in the long term. I’ve participated from the start and feel like I am making a difference for the planet and sending less cash to large utility companies. I definitely urge our residents to participate,” DeLuca said. “Our new addition, the energy efficiency program, will provide tremendous benefits to our residents. Being more efficient in how we use our resources is also an important step in protecting our planet.”

The nonprofit organization SmartPower was selected to manage the SEA Energy Solutions program through a competitive request-for-proposal process. SmartPower has partnered with Abode Energy Management, an energy consulting firm from Concord, Mass., to offer complementary services that will result in a highly impactful, cost-effective program for SEA. 

“Each one of us can be a part of the energy solution,” SmartPower President Brian F. Keane said in a press release. “At a time when we urgently need to change our energy-consumption habits, SEA Energy Solutions can help turbocharge those efforts. Log on to https://seaenergysolutions.wee.green, and let’s start saving energy now.”

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