Montclair Environmental Commission seeks more renewable energy, savings in …

May 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The Montclair Environmental Commission seeks to increase Montclair’s renewable energy portfolio and, in the process, save ratepayers a few dollars.

In a resolution, the commission has backed plans for Montclair to participate in “community energy aggregation,” a program in which energy would be purchased in bulk for local residents and businesses, and distributed by the same utility company. Residents are free to opt out of the program.

While buying in bulk is typically a move to save ratepayers money, the resolution cites New Jersey’s Energy Master Plan’s goal for municipalities to have a renewable energy portfolio of 22.5 percent by 2021. Montclair has its Carbon Emissions Reduction Plan, with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, motivating the township to pursue a higher green energy component.

Montclair Environmental Commission Co-Chair Lyle Landon presented the commission’s recommendation to the Township Council on May 6, noting that the group believed that the township should draft a Request For Proposal for an energy consultant. The consultant would evaluated the township’s needs and, in turn, draft a Request For Proposal for energy suppliers.

The consultant, while working on behalf of the township, would be compensated by the chosen supplier as part of the bid.

Landon told The Times that Montclair already participates in energy aggregation as it currently purchases energy for municipal-government operations through a partnership with fellow municipalities in Essex County and Hudson County. In that contract, Montclair and its fellow municipalities receive electricity with a green-energy allotment of 150 percent of the roughly 12 percent required by the state.

Landon said that it is too early into the process to project how much green energy Montclair would seek in its community energy aggregation and what it hopes to save ratepayers. Should the Township Council decide to pursue the commission’s recommendation, those decisions would be determined by the energy consultant, Landon said.

“We would certainly want, whoever is selected, to do research and share with us what they thought the benefit would be,” said Landon of green energy and cost-saving goals. “It’s great that we’re at the pioneer end of the spectrum, but we’re not number one. We should figure out what [other municipalities] are doing and do the good stuff and avoid the bad stuff.”

Montclair Sustainability Officer Gray Russell said his personal goal would be for Montclair residents’ and business owners’ energy to have a 20 percent green energy component while also saving ratepayers between $20 and $50 per year.

Community energy aggregation is something already explored by municipalities in central and southern New Jersey, such as Toms River and Plumsted, according to Russell, who said that, as those municipalities looked purely for savings, they have averaged between $100 and $150 per ratepayer in reduced spending with Jersey Central Power Lighting. As PSEG’s rates are lower than JCPL’s, Montclair could probably save residents between $50 and $100 annually if it went for straight savings, he said.

Russell said that Montclair would be “blazing the trail” in terms of seeking both a higher renewable energy component and cost savings, and that he’s worked with Sustainable Jersey, a nonprofit that certifies municipalities in environmental initiatives, in how to achieve both.

As a larger pool of ratepayers would lead to greater savings, Russell said that he’s already spoken with members of the Maplewood Township Council’s Environmental Subcommittee about the township joining Montclair’s program.

Russell said that he has had similar conversations with the chair of Millburn’s Environmental Commission and that, as co-chair of the Essex County Environmental Commission, he would seek out other municipalities if requested to do so.

Teaming up

Point Pleasant Beach Borough Councilman Stephen Reid said his municipality made a similar move several months ago, teaming with nearby municipalities such as Howell and Farmingdale. Reid, who advocated for community energy aggregation, said that Point Pleasant Beach’s consultant, Commercial Utility Contractors, received a bid in February for 9 percent cost savings for ratepayers. A second bid was planned for last month, but was backed out of as gasolineprices increased, Reid said. The councilman said that the goal would be to have a ratepayer savings of 10 percent or more, or roughly $200.

Farmingdale Mayor Jay Morgan said that, as his municipality has just 600 to 700 housing units and businesses, it made sense for it to team with Howell to maximize savings. The mayor said that the borough was similarly pursued by neighboring Colts Neck.

“It’s a commodity on the market,” Morgan said of energy. “You try to get the best price and save your people money.”

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