BurlCo Towns Join Together To Get Deal On Energy Costs

Sparking municipalities and residents to generate energy savings by buying in bulk is once again underway through a countywide program. The Burlington County Energy Aggregation Program is an initiative designed to save the county, towns and residents money by coming together for joint purchasing opportunities from electric suppliers.

"The whole point is to get the best rate as we possibly can," said Stacia Scaduto, of Commercial Utility Consultants, which is the county's energy agent and is assisting in managing the program. Representatives from the firm have been meeting with local governing bodies to explain the program, which was created in the county in 2014, and covers only the power-supply portion of an electric bill.

Under the program, delivery and distribution of electricity will continue to remain the same through Public Service Electric & Gas, Jersey Central Power & Light, Atlantic City Electric or whatever company serves a community now. Aggregation will allow everyone to save without a risk of paying more for energy than the going rate being charged by the local distribution company, county spokesman Eric Arpert said.

"We buy in bulk, and our buying power increases when we buy in bulk," Arpert said. "Folks can come in and out of the program at any time, with no penalty or no fee." While a few towns have already agreed to participate, the county and the energy agent are encouraging more to sign up. To do so, municipalities must adopt an ordinance authorizing participation.

Palmyra introduced an ordinance last month and will make a final determination on the matter after a presentation on April 18, according to Borough Administrator John Gural, adding that the mayor and Borough Council are excited to learn more. "Palmyra’s governing body is always open to discussing opportunities that will save residents money, and community energy aggregation programs certainly offer that prospect," Gural said.

Eastampton isn't as eager to proceed, in the wake of past problems individuals had after reaching agreements with third-party suppliers. Scaduto said she understood. "There are contractors who had a lot of issues when we had those two bad winters, a lot of issues with termination fees," she said. "They skyrocketed the rates, and people couldn't get out of the contract because it was another $300, or whatever it might be."

But that won't be the case under the county program; it allows residents to get out without any fees. "This program comes out of a law designed to alleviate some of the horror stories residents have had with third-party energy providers," Arpert said.

The program gives residents more options and will eventually become a cheaper way to go. "The more residents that are in, the greater our buying power," Arpert said. "This is something we are offering to our towns, not something we are selling or pushing to our towns."

The energy agent is paid for its services by the supplier. The county program hasn't had an auction for a new energy supplier yet, but officials expect that to change soon. "It kind of died down a little bit, and now through our consulting, we found it’s a good point in the market," Scaduto said.

"We're looking to get to auction by the end of April or May some time, so we're switching people over by June so they could get that summertime savings."

For more information about the energy aggregation program, visit www.njaggregation.us/burlington.

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