RED BANK: POWER SWITCH IN THE WORKS

Sample JCP&L bill aggregationBilling for service would continue to come from JCP&L even for those customers who participate in the aggregation plan. (Image by Concord. Click to enlarge.)

By JOHN T. WARD

In an effort to head off shocks to residents about anticipated changes to their electricity bills, Red Bank official kicked off a public outreach effort Thursday.

Driving the effort: the borough’s planned entry into the “energy aggregation” marketplace, where the local government serves as a bundler of customers to obtain better rates than those offered by Jersey Central Power & Light.

The kicker: once the program begins, all borough homes and business will automatically get a new electricity supplier, though the juice will still be delivered and serviced by JCP&L. The exceptions: those who opt out of the switch; are already customers of so-called “third-party suppliers;” or have solar panels on their roofs.

At its semimonthly meeting Wednesday night, the council adopted an ordinance under which the borough becomes an aggregator of customers in search of rates better than those available from the longtime power monopoly JCP&L.

The ordinance authorizes energy broker Concord Energy Services and Commercial Utility Consultants Inc. to solicit reverse-auction bids to supply electricity to customers in the borough, kicking off a process that “will likely result in lower electric rates without causing any interruption in service,” according to a program explainer posted on the borough website Thursday.

The explainer includes answers to frequently asked questions, such as “Who do residents call if their electricity goes out?” (Answer: “They will still call the utility company.”)

The borough also posted a link to a presentation by Concord on the regulatory process that must be followed for the switch to occur.

As she has at prior meetings on the issue, Councilwoman Kate Triggiano, who serves as liaison to the Environmental Commission, sought assurances that residents would be able to opt for electricity produced from renewable sources at levels higher than than the standard 21 percent required by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities.

“When we go out to auction, we can ask suppliers for multiple different levels of green energy,” Nick Reynolds, of CUC,  told the council. “We can literally go to 100 percent,” and show prices at various levels from the competing suppliers, he said.

But “the more green energy you go, typically, the higher the price is,” he said. At the standard renewable rate, aggregation typically saves customers 10 percent from JCP&L rates, he said.

“Nothing happens until after the energy auction,” Reynolds said. It’s at that point that the borough selects its suppliers and begins the two-year contract, he said.

Additional information will be sent to customers once bids are in and the borough selects a supplier. Residents and business owners will then have 30 days to opt out of the program, and can drop out at any point without incurring penalties.