Exploring Energy Aggregation

Commissioners Leonard, Lewandowski and I were excited to sign “Ordinance 1682 – Authorizing the Establishment of a Government Energy Aggregation Program” at our recent commission meeting. It’s a big step forward that may allow us to enact meaningful change at the municipal level. We are only at the starting line of researching how residential energy aggregation will work for Collingswood and we want to be sure we strike a balance of sustainability and affordability since the final decision will affect the PSE&G bill that arrives in your mailbox.

There is a relatively new State law that allows municipalities to contract with an energy supplier, after a bidding process, for your residential energy supply. In other words, after a process the Borough can act to change your energy supplier to your house - and affect your bill for that energy supply.

The State law was originally adopted as a way to allow towns to act to help reduce residents’ energy costs. This law has now become a vehicle for pursuing a greater level of residential use of energy from sustainable sources.

We have heard considerable input from groups interested in renewable energy sources as we “did our homework” researching if energy aggregation would make sense for Collingswood. We spoke with other towns, experts and providers to understand what a switch to an enhanced renewable energy supplier would mean for residents here.

For us, one of the most important things to consider is that making the switch from a local electric utility to a sustainable provider means that the change is made universally for all properties in Collingswood. Essentially, any agreement would change everyone’s supplier – rather than having the option to opt IN to the program, your supplier would be changed automatically and it is your responsibility to opt OUT.

For this reason, while we are excited about the possibility of moving toward more sustainable power for the Borough, we are not comfortable if the Borough’s action would increase utility bills for all residents.

We have heard from some environmental groups that want the Borough to commit to 100% renewable energy for every resident by a by 2030 regardless of the cost to you. We have expressed our reluctance to make such a commitment out of concern for residents that may not be able to take on higher energy costs, even if the goal of more sustainable energy is agreed upon by all.

That’s why the language of the Ordinance aims for aggregating power supply to a sustainable company and “said contracts will provide prices to residents that are lower than the prevailing price for utility-provided basic generation service.” If it means prices will go up for all residents we believe it more appropriate to allow residents to make those choices on their own. We don’t like raising your taxes and we are not going to now start raising your utility bills.

However, we believe that aggregation programs are starting to yield prices that are competitive to local utilities and this is why are researching the option, working with other municipalities to increase a possible aggregation footprint and really looking closely if this is something that makes sense for our residents.

We do want to note that any individual interested in switching to 100% sustainable energy can do so for their property – today! You can make the switch at any time if you are willing to navigate those providers privately. But we feel strongly that any program that changes provider on behalf of the Borough should not increase your utility bill on a specific timeline.

That being said, after we continue to research energy aggregation options we are truly hopeful that the lights will shine a little greener in Collingswood in the coming years, and save us all a little green as well.

We’ll keep everyone updated and, as always, we welcome your questions and input on the matter.