The Red Bank Environmental Commission is making a push to get residents to enroll in a statewide program aimed at promoting the development of alternative energy sources, including wind and solar power.

As an enticement, the commission is giving away compact fluorescent lightbulbs, which are significantly less power-consuming than conventional incandescent bulbs.

The group has set an initial target goal of 100 borough households for enrollment in the CleanPower Choice program run by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. [When redbankgreen tried accessing the CleanPower Choice links in this story this morning, we failed, but the site may have been down for maintenance.]

Lynne Kennedy of McLaren Street is in the program, which requires a bit of faith in the The Man. Participating consumers select from a short list of alternative energy sources and then pay somewhere between $5 and $12 extra per month, money that’s used to buy energy from the alternative suppliers.

Kennedy opted for a plan that directs 75 percent of her extra payment to wind power and the rest to hydropower.

“I’m willing to sacrifice a little to make it happen,” she says, adding that she’s “mostly confident” that First Energy, owner of local electricity provider Jersey Central Power & Light, “is doing what they’e supposed to do” with the money. Likewise, she’s hoping that the BPU is providing necessary oversight.

“You really have to trust and hope that they’re doing the right thing with the money that we’re ‘donating,'” she says.

In an email exchange with environmental commission member Boris Kofman, we asked about the rationale for the program.

Is this really the best way to foster clean energy — making the consumers pay extra to encourage clean alternatives rather than having the BPU simply require utilities to buy a percentage from the windfarms etc?

It’s a way. These are not mutually exclusive. Under the new regulations, 20 percent of New Jersey’s electricity must come from renewable sources by 2020.

Kennedy, who drives a Prius to her job at an insurance company near Trenton, also switched to CFLs about eight months ago, replacing all but one of the incandescents in her apartment. So far, she says, she hasn’t noticed a big difference in her electricity bill, but that’s because she uses utility company Jersey Central Power & Light’s equal-payment plan, which smooths out seasonal spikes and drops by averaging usage over the year.

“It’ll probably be a year before I notice a reduction,” she says.

But neither has she seen any of the diminution of candlepower that some people complain of. (In fact, Kennedy gave her parents a package of the bulbs at Christmas; they later gave them back, saying the light they gave off was too dim.)


There’s also a “tiny, tiny” delay before light is evident after a CFL is switched on, Kennedy says, an insignificant change that she quickly got used to.

The upside, though, is that the bulbs, though they cost more than incandescents, use only a fraction of the power and last vastly longer. They typically save $30 or more over their lifetimes compared to incandescents.

From a press announcement sent out by he commission:

First, the catch. It will cost you a little more, probably $5-$10 extra per month. If reducing global warming is worth the extra cost to you, then keep reading.

Enrolling in this program (officially called CleanPower Choice) is really easy: you just fill out an on-line form. Nothing changes except that JCP&L will be sending your money to the clean power supplier you picked rather than those “dirty” power plants. JCP&L is still going to deliver electricity to your home and send you one bill, and nothing needs to be changed in your house.

To see the suppliers, go to the NJ BPU’s CleanPower Web site, or to the site of one of the four participating suppliers:

Green Mountain Energy Company
Jersey Atlantic Wind, LLC
Sterling Planet, Inc.
Community Energy, Inc.

You can get a better idea of how much each option will cost you by plugging in your average monthly usage into the spreadsheet.

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