Montclair eyes green in community energy aggregation

October 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Montclair officials are preparing for a foray into the relative unknown as the township considers whether to both switch over to community energy aggregation and become a state leader in clean energy.

Gray RussellBob Russo

As reported by Sustainability Officer Gray Russell during the Oct. 1 Township Council meeting, municipalities throughout New Jersey are considering a measure to switch residential electricity to third-party suppliers, something municipalities like Montclair have been doing at the government-property level for years.

Utility companies in New Jersey no longer produce their own energy, Russell explained during the meeting. Instead, they make money on distribution. If a resident, or entire municipality, were to sign a contract with a supplier, cost savings could be seen with no change in maintenance and billing, Russell said.

Russell also sees the potential aggregation as an opportunity to up increase Montclair’s clean energy usage.

Speaking with The Times on Monday, Russell told The Times that the state Board of Public Utility currently requires a clean energy component of just shy of 12 percent in all state electricity. That figure is scheduled to gradually increase until reaching 20 percent in 2020. Russell hopes for Montclair to reach 20 percent right off the bat.

Montclair’s township clean energy usage relating to municipal buildings, traffic lights and the like is already beyond the state requirement, up to about 17 or 18 percent, Russell said, citing an energy aggregation group purchase Montclair participates in alongside other Essex and Hudson county municipalities.

As Montclair’s municipal electricity consumption is among the cleanest in the state, Russell said that he thought it would be appropriate for residential consumption to be similarly green. At 20 percent, the township would be well ahead of any other municipality, Russell said, adding that representatives of Sustainable Jersey have already been in contact with him about making Montclair a model community.

Though individual residents have had the opportunity to sign on with third-party energy suppliers since 2003, it wasn’t until 2009 that municipalities in New Jersey had the opportunity to switch entire municipalities over, Russell said. Just two, Toms River and Plumsted, have taken the plunge at this point, he said, adding that about a dozen other municipalities are considering the measure.

While cost savings has been the prime driver of energy aggregation up till now, Russell said that his vision for Montclair wouldn’t be about money, but rather sustainability. Russell said that it is his hope that when and if the Township Council places a request for proposal out to bidders, the township goes the route of renewable energy rather than optimum savings.

If an individual ratepayer were to object to such a decision, Russell pointed out that they have the freedom to opt out of the township plan and enter an individual agreement with a supplier, or continue with their current plan.

“Every town should eventually do this,” Russell said. “We have to all find our ways to lower our carbon footprint. This is a critically important issue for all Americans, all New Jerseyans and that includes Montclairians. We have to do this for our children and ourselves.”

The word in Ocean County

At about this time last year, Plumsted entered its first contract with a third-party supplier, beginning on Jan. 1 of this year, Peter Ylvisaker, executive director of the Plumsted Municipal Utilities Authority, told The Times. The municipality will enter a second agreement with another supplier beginning Jan. 1, 2014.

Ylvisaker said Plumsted first began considering the switch as more and more residents began receiving letters and fliers from suppliers. Eventually, municipal officials decided to switch over on behalf of residents, many of whom were confused by what they were receiving.

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