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Princeton Council rejects bids from potential energy suppliers


Princeton residents who want to take part in the Princeton Community Energy Aggregation program will have to wait a little longer.

The Princeton Council rejected bids from potential energy suppliers at a special meeting on Dec. 4.

Princeton Council had hoped to award a bid to a third-party energy supplier, but none of the bids were satisfactory.

Earlier this year, Princeton joined the growing list of municipalities – from Plainsboro Township to Glen Rock, Montclair and Livingston – that participate in renewable government energy aggregation programs. The program allows a town to pool its residents’ purchasing power to buy electricity at a better rate than Public Service Gas & Electric Co. charges.

Public Service Gas & Electric Co. customers’ bills include a delivery charge and a supply charge. It is the supply charge that would be affected. Princeton residents would still receive electricity from Public Service Gas & Electric Co., and pay their bills to the utility company.

Residents would automatically be enrolled in the Princeton Community Energy Aggregation program. They could opt out at any time, without paying a fee to do so. The opt-out rate is estimated at about 10-15%, according to Robert Chilton of Gabel Associates, which has been retained to manage the program.

Residents who have already switched to a third-party supplier or who have their own renewable energy solar generating systems would not be included in the Princeton Community Energy Aggregation program.

The goal of the Princeton Community Energy Aggregation program is to help residents and businesses to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by pooling their purchasing power to buy power under more favorable terms and conditions, including electricity generated by renewable sources.

“Princeton Council authorized the program, with the goal of aggregating Princeton residents together in an effort to go out to market seeking competitive proposals for power supply that has a greater renewable energy content than the power supply provided by Public Service Gas & Electric Co., and at a lower cost,” Mayor Liz Lempert said.

A renewable government energy aggregation plan, in fact, is contained in the climate action plan prepared by Sustainable Princeton and that gained Princeton Council’s support earlier this year.

The request for proposals, which resulted in four bids, sought offers from suppliers for the power supply portion of residents’ utility bills that had a 50% renewable energy content, which is more than double the renewable energy content from Public Service Gas & Electric Co.

Residents could opt to purchase energy that was generated 100% by renewable sources, such as solar and wind, at a higher price, Lempert said.

Four suppliers offered competitive proposals which met the town’s requirements for enhanced renewable energy content. But because of some current market conditions “that worked against us, none of the price proposals provided sufficient benefit from a price perspective when compared to Public Service Gas & Electric Co.,” Lempert said.

Although the bids were rejected, she said, the door is still open for the suppliers to submit new price offers for up to 120 days following the rejection. The town is prepared to act quickly if and when the market conditions improve so it can land a beneficial contract for residents.

Lempert said that based on the experiences of other towns that have participated in the renewable government energy aggregation programs, it is not unusual for things not to work out the first time.

“The process we have established allows the town to continue its pursuit of a lower-cost, environmentally-friendly power supply option for residents, and to act quickly when market conditions become more favorable,” Lempert said.

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