Springfield officials say energy co-op could save hundreds on utility bills

By Tom Wright-Piersanti/The Star-Ledger | June 26, 2013 at 4:49 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield has entered into a cooperative energy program that could substantially cut residents’ utility bills, making it the first municipality in Union County to try the new system, according to officials.

The township council unanimously selected Jersey Energy Group to act as broker for the municipal aggregation program, which allows towns to pool their residents and seek the lowest price on electricity supply at auction.

“Our hope is to save residents a couple hundred dollars,” said Anthony Cancro, Springfield’s township administrator. “It’s almost like getting a property tax reduction by being able to buy bulk power.”

Springfield dropped Jersey Central Power & Light as its energy provider a few years ago, Cancro said, and has been studying this new type of program to determine whether it would benefit residents.

With township approval, JEG will enter into a contract for one to three years with the lowest bidder. The rate agreed upon will not rise in that time, but if JCP&L’s prices drop below it, the company will lower their price to match the new rate, officials said.

Under the cooperative program, JCP&L will still provide the transmission and distribution of electricity, and will be responsible for repairs and maintenance.

“The reliability factor of JCP&L doesn’t change,” Cancro said. “What changes is where the power is generated, and the cost.”

The switch will be seamless, JEG officials said, and residents may not even be aware until their bill arrives. The bill will still come from JCP&L, with the new supplier’s name and rate are listed in place of the old one.

Residents are automatically enrolled in the program, officials said, but they are allowed to opt out individually. Conversely, small businesses will be asked to opt in.

Though there is no fee to leave the co-op, JEG officials urged residents to stick with it, noting that more people in the customer pool allows for lower rates.

Cancro said that the township chose JEG because of its focus on educating residents. The group works in coordination with the Princeton Public Affairs Group to explain the new program and its potential benefits.

“What they do well, and this is critical in order for the residents to understand what’s going on, they will offer education programs in town hall meetings explaining what it is, what the process will be and what the hopeful savings will be,” Cancro said.

Though the group has never worked with a New Jersey municipality, they said that in brokering deals for 40,000 homes in Illinois, the average household savings was 24 percent.

New Jersey first approved this type of program in 2003 when the state adopted the Government Energy Aggregation Act, allowing municipalities to shop outside the usual providers for lower prices on power, Cancro said. JEG is among the state’s approved brokers.

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