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West Orange Township Holds Energy Aggregation Presentation at Edison Middle School

Cynthia Cumming

Thursday, August 15, 2013 • 1:53am

WEST ORANGE, NJ - Mayor Robert Parisi, along with consultants Kenny Esser, Olivia Corkdale, and Stefano Crema of Gabel Associates, presented information regarding the township's move to provide residents with a reduced rate on their electric bill under a proposed program called WOCEA (West Orange Community Energy Aggregation) at Edison Middle School on Wednesday, Aug. 14.

Approximately 75 residents turned out for the presentation and most of the audience was comprised of senior homeowners, township business owners, and a few residents skeptical of the program.

Certain non-negotiables were established up-front. The program would only move forward if Gabel Associates, who applied to the township as consultants, were able to negotiate a savings on residents' electric bills of 5% or more.  Kenny Esser of Gabel noted this was a bottom line figure, and that other towns they worked with saw savings of at least 10%.  The negotiated contract would run for a period of one or two years and establish a fixed rate for that time period.  

The township currently has an agreement with Essex County for electric supply, with approximately one year remaining.  Mayor Parisi indicated that if Gabel Associates could negotiate a better deal for the township after their agreement with the county expires, they would certainly move forward with that.

The question and answer period was a mix of positive and negative, and several residents appeared confused about the proposed change.  

A few of the questions and answers:

The bulk buying power of a township would guarantee at least 5% or more in savings for residents. Gabel Associates would broker and negotiate the deal with a third party supplier, and their fees would be included in the negotiated price with the third party supplier.

Residents would have to 'opt out' if they did not want to participate, and could choose PSEG or another third party supplier for their electric (not gas). A resident would not be penalized if they did not want to participate, but had to fill out a card or call to 'opt out'.  Once a resident 'opted out', should they decide they did want to participate, it may take some time for that to occur.

The savings would only be seen under the 'supply portion' of a resident's electric bill.  The supply cost would be negotiated at a specific rate and remain at that rate for the course of the agreement., whether or not the cost increased with other providers. After the agreement ends, the process begins anew from scratch.

For residents with solar panels, and for more information regarding the possibility of renewable energy, Gabel Associates recommended residents contact them regarding the efficacy of their participation in the program. If the electric component works out successfully, down the the road the gas component of residents' energy bills can be considered.

If residents currently have 'Worry Free Contracts' with PSEG for various appliances, that is unaffected. For residents with "Budget-Equal Payment Plans" their bill will be split into two, with their gas charges from PSEG and the charges from the third party supplier also broken down into a equal payment plan. As with PSEG, if residents exceed their estimated usage, they will be billed for the overage.

Mayor Parisi explained to skeptical residents that the township was supporting this initiative on their behalf, with no expectation of 'getting anything out of it."  At the end of the day, skeptical residents can 'opt out' without penalty.  Business owners in attendance, like John McElroy of Select Towing, seemed pleased with the effort and was appreciative of the information provided.

Online blogs had scattered criticisms of the program, though most of the posters were not even in attendance at the meeting.  Gabel Associates provided the Alternative Press of West Orange with the following information, including information about other townships moving towards an energy aggregation initiative.  

For more information on the program, which is up for second reading with the town council, go to:

https://s3.amazonaws.com/altpress-uploads/energy1.pdf

https://s3.amazonaws.com/altpress-uploads/energy2.doc

The Alternative Press of West Orange welcomes commentary on township issues under the "Letters to the Editor" arena of the website.  The name, email, and address of the poster is required to publish an opionion.

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