SO looks to partner for energy

SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — The South Orange Board of Trustees unanimously passed an ordinance on first reading authorizing the establishment of a government energy aggregation program at its March 26 meeting. The program, if approved on second reading at the April 23 meeting following a public hearing, will allow South Orange to enter the Sustainable Essex Alliance, with the intention of providing green energy and lowering electric bills for residents and property owners. Other towns in the alliance include Maplewood, Glen Ridge, Millburn, Montclair and Verona. Maplewood is the group’s leading municipality.

“This is the next step in the various progression of steps we need to go through in our attempts to basically procure cheaper energy for everybody and ensure that a greater percentage of energy is either renewable or green energy,” South Orange Trustee Walter Clarke said at the March 26 meeting.

Energy aggregation allows local governments to create buying groups, which then seek bids for cheaper energy. According to the New Jersey state government’s website, the groups allow municipalities to aggregate energy so customers can buy their electricity and gas from a third-party supplier for below-average utility prices. The program, as Clarke said, also provides more renewable energy to customers.

“If you’re a homeowner, you won’t feel anything except you pay less for energy and electricity,” Clarke said. “The whole idea is that it’s one of these situations where we go out and, as a larger entity, these six towns together can make a much better deal to procure electricity.”

Clarke said South Orange residents’ energy provider, PSE&G, will not change.

“They’re still the distributor, they’re just no longer the supplier,” he said. “The hope is to also get a higher percentage (of energy) that is green. So people will feel nothing except for more money in their pocket.”

Gable Associates, an energy and utility consulting firm, will be making the deal for the six towns to find cheaper energy. The company focuses on implementing energy plans that reduce both costs and environmental impact to provide energy.

Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca said that after each town passes a resolution or ordinance that approves program participation, Gable will begin working to find an energy provider. Maplewood and Glen Ridge were the first towns to join the alliance in November 2017, and Verona, Millburn and Montclair have followed suit in January and February.

“The work is still being done with the consultant, and that will be over the spring and into the summer before we make a selection,” DeLuca said in a phone interview with the News-Record on April 16. “It’ll be late summer or early fall before we make a decision and then we’ll start letting residents know so we can roll it out.”

Clarke said information about the new energy rates will not be available for another few months.

“These are hoops we need to jump through in order to be able to go out onto the market as a group to get rates,” he said in an April 13 email to the News-Record. “Until we have what the beneficial rate is, there really isn’t anything to talk about. I don’t expect any real info for a couple of months.”