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Power aggregation takes hold in Jersey communities

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Think globally; act locally.

The phrase is more than a century old by some accounts and it seemed to gain increased prominence about 50 years ago.

The urgency is palpable now with more people wanting to do something about it.

Lambertville, N.J., resident Michael Heffler, with a desire to make a difference, has been lobbying local municipalities for more than a year to reduce electricity costs and get greener.

“It’s been quite an education and an accomplishment,” he said.

Due to his efforts, nine New Jersey towns close to the Delaware River have passed ordinances to reduce their carbon footprint through community energy aggregation.

Through this program, a municipality can combine the usage of its residents, commercial and/or governmental properties to get lower energy supply prices and pass that savings to their residents.

Residents will be able to choose if they want to participate in the program.

“Now there is a way for everyone to pitch in so we get greener faster,” he said.

Heffler said the New Jersey municipalities in the program so far are Lambertville, Delaware Township, Kingwood Township, Frenchtown, Stockton, Alexandria Township, and West Amwell Township in Hunterdon County and Hopewell and Pennington in Mercer County.

The program isn’t offered in Pennsylvania, only in New Jersey and a few other states, according to Heffler.

He said those towns have joined an existing co-op, the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative (HAEC). He said 8,000 households in the co-op reduced their electricity costs by $130,000 in just one quarter of 2019.

For example, according to a letter mailed to Delaware Township residents last month, officials said they were able to obtain a lower energy supply rate than what Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) charges.

Following an electricity auction, Delaware Township officials signed a six-month contract with IDT Energy of Newark, N.J., which offered a rate of .0863/kWh, less than JCP&L’s .105331/kWh at the time of comparison.

According to the letter, “in accordance with the state’s program requirements, as a Delaware Township resident you will be automatically enrolled in the program unless you opt out by Saturday, March 7.” The letter also says there are no fees associated with joining or leaving the program at any time.

The letter states that the IDT Energy rate would go into effect with the April 2020 read date and conclude with the October 2020 read date. It also states by way of example that Delaware Township residents using 700/kWh per month under the program would be billed $60.41 for the supply portion as opposed to $73.73.

Heffler said he began advocating for community aggregation and greener energy as a way to reduce the impact of natural gas and as a way to help fight the PennEast Pipeline.

“Reducing the natural gas in our electricity sends a message, loud and clear, that will have repercussions for the fossil fuel industry and our state government’s view of these projects.”

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently granted PennEast a two-year extension to build its pipeline.

In the FERC filing, PennEast disclosed the gas shippers with whom it has contracted for phase one of the project in Pennsylvania. These gas shippers include New Jersey Natural Gas Company, South Jersey Gas Company, Elizabethtown Gas Company, and UGI Energy Services. PSEG is also one of the shippers. All have a financial stake in PennEast.

Watchdogs are concerned because the companies building the pipeline will sell a majority of the gas back to themselves.

The New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate has already said that the PennEast pipeline is unneeded and will raise rates, costing consumers money.

The New Jersey Legislature passed the Government Energy Aggregation Act in 2003.

Heffler hopes that energy aggregation can be a blueprint for other communities.


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