LIVINGSTON, NJ — In an official publication of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, which is distributed to elected officials throughout the state, Livingston Mayor Al Anthony described the “green win-win” the township created earlier this year when the governing body unanimously adopted a resolution providing for 100-percent renewable energy to the majority of Livingston residents at a significant cost savings earlier this year.

At the request of Amy Spiezio, managing editor of NJ Municipalities Magazine, Anthony submitted an article about Livingston becoming the eighth municipality in the country to accomplish this feat. By describing the process in his own words, the mayor hopes to inspire others throughout the state to follow Livingston’s lead in “protecting the environment for future generations.”

“We learned throughout this process that a green win-win can be obtained,” he wrote. “We hope that leadership officials around the state and our nation will follow our lead, and together we will all make a difference. One by one, each town can do their part on behalf of their residents and provide a better place to live for future generations while saving money.”

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On a personal note, Anthony mentioned that this achievement was particularly rewarding because it is “incredibly gratifying” to know that his hometown “is now part of the solution, recognized as a clean energy leader in the country.”

“Providing renewable energy with no damage to the natural resources of our beautiful state, while protecting the environment for future generations, brings full circle the reason most of us get involved in government: to make a difference,” he said.

More of the mayor’s article can be found below.

Livingston’s Green Win-Win: 100% Renewable Energy at 10% Savings

By Al Anthony, Mayor of Livingston

In a township as diverse, educated and large as Livingston, we are fortunate to have many different perspectives on all topics. As mayor, it as my responsibility with the rest of the town towns also listen to all of our constituents, respect varying viewpoints, and try to reach consensus implementing the best ideas. 

When it comes to environmental issues, despite their increased popularity these days, there is still a wide range of interests and commitment. While some people are completely on board as witnessed by solar panels on their homes, the cars they drive and the recycling bins outside their houses, others seem only slightly interested in climate change and the effects of pollutants in our environment.

So how do we enact policy where everyone can benefit?

Environmentally conscious or not, everyone likes fiscal responsibility and saving money. Recently, we found a sweet spot between green energy and saving green.

I am happy to report that with the full support of our entire township council—including Deputy Mayor Rudy Fernandez, council members Ed Meinhardt, Shawn Klein and Michael Vieira, along with Township Manage Barry Lewis—we found a win-win for all of our residents when I had the opportunity to sign resolutions providing for 100 percent renewable energy to the majority of Livingston—and at a significant cost savings.

Renewable Benefits:

Started this June and continuing until October 2020, our residents served by PSEG, which constitutes about three-quarters of our town, will receive 100 percent renewable energy at a significant price reduction as compared to the average utility tariff price for power supply—resulting in projected savings of about $165 per household. 

The other approximately one-quarter of our residents, served by JCP&, will receive electricity from 41 percent renewable sources—up to 20 percent from the state-mandated minimum percentage—until September 2020. These residents will also see a savings, albeit much more modest due to market conditions and current BPU tariff rates. 

Although anyone can opt out of the program, if all eligible residents take advantage of this exciting opportunity, the collective savings over the life of the contract will be over $1 million and make Livingston a state and national leader in clean energy.

It has been reported that Livingston is only the eighth municipality in the nation to make 100 percent renewable energy available to the majority of its residents.

Defeating Aggregation Aggravation:

This opportunity to save money while protecting the environment is the result of a long effort by our town council.

During my tenure as a council member and two-time mayor since 2013, we have discussed aggregation several times. Early on, there was a lack of confidence in the process, a lack of appreciable savings and a lack of trust that any of the benefits of aggregation would be outweighed by feelings of aggravation by our residents.

After several years of homework, however—including talking with other towns, mayors and state officials, and hosting public meetings with representatives of aggregation companies who answered our residents’ questions and concerns—we not only reached a comfort level with the concept, but with a certain company to hire as well.

We retained energy consultants Gabel Associates to advise the township and coordinate the pursuit of renewable energy for the community. After we enacted the appropriate ordinance, the consultants collected the necessary data to develop the community’s energy profile and set up competitive auctions for third-party energy suppliers to provide renewable energy to the community.

Bids were held twice in 2018, but failed to deliver results that were beneficial to the community.

The third time happened to be the charm. This round of bids took place in the afternoon of March 13; and in anticipation, we scheduled a special council meeting that night.

After reviewing the bids, we voted unanimously in favor and locked in 100 percent renewable energy at a cost savings for the vast majority of our town. 

In the following weeks, we continued to provide information through open forums common mail and online, guiding and reassuring her residents that their current provider will continue still deliver their electricity, service their power lines, fix any power outages and be available to call when the lights go out. 

The consumer will not see anything different in their service except a new supplier and lower rate listed on their bill, and the satisfaction of knowing they are using 100 percent renewable energy.

At the end of the contract—as there is no automatic rollover—we will need to conduct another competitive bid for a new contract; and if unsuccessful, consumers will simply be returned to the provider's power supply at the provider's tariff price.

Also included as part of the article was the following information about the law behind the win-win:

“The Government Energy Aggregation Act of 2013 authorizes municipalities and/or counties of New Jersey to establish a Government Energy Aggregation (GEA) program

“A GEA program allows municipalities—working alone or in a group—to aggregate the energy requirements of residential, commercial and municipal customer accounts so that the participating customers can purchase electric supply and/or gas supply from third-party suppliers at prices lower than the average utility price with the possibility of added benefits, such as higher renewable energy content. 

“The program is conducted under the oversight of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, the Division of Rate Counsel and the Department of Community Affairs.

“Allowing municipalities to pull together residents when purchasing energy creates economies of scale and purchasing power, and thus the ability to achieve greater savings during a competitive bid situation then could normally be achieved by an individual customer.”