NEW BRUNSWICK,NJ - Following in the steps of growing number of municipalities, New Brunswick now proposes to buy electricity in bulk to get a low rate for all households, and to seek an supplier that will employ environmentally-friend renewable energy sources.
"The city is moving forward on a plan to bring more renewable energy resources to our community, a plan that will help reduce our carbon footprint and help keep New Brunswick clean, green and sustainable," Mayor James Cahill's office said in a statement released today.
The announcement comes just weeks after the activist group New Jersey Food and Water Watch submitted a petition with 669 signatures calling for a city ordinance establishing an "energy aggregation" program. Under that program, the city would seek a contract with an energy provider to supply electricity at a low rate.
This proposed ordinance also calls for the city to have a provider that obtains at least 30 percent of the electricity from renewable sources. The proposal calls from that percentage to increase, and reach 90 percent renewable sources by 2032.
Under state regulation, the city clerk's office is under a deadline of end of work day Monday to certify whether the petition has sufficient signatures to be valid. Regulations require that a petition must have at least 10 percent of the number people that voted in the last general election. That means there must be 472 valid signatures from city residents, according to Junior Romero, Central Jersey organizer for Food and Water Watch.
"At the federal level, we seen an attack on our environment. So we have to do everything we can on the local level to protect the environment," Romero said. He said Gloucester Township in southern New Jersey reduced energy costs seven percent through a bulk purchase program.
If there are enough signatures, the city would either be required to adopt this or a similar ordinance, or the measure would become a referendum question on the November ballot.
City officials, however, say they have been working on their own ordinance since they were first approached by the Food and Watch last April.
"The city intends to move forward with the planned ordinance to implement more renewable energy sources to help keep New Brunswick green, clean and sustainable, regardless of whether the petition is deemed valid," the statement from Cahill's office said.
City attorney T.J. Shamy said he has contacted other municipalities that have energy aggregation programs, and he is preparing an ordinance for New Brunswick. That ordinance, Shamy said, may not include the 30 percent renewable energy source as stated in the Food and Water Watch proposal, but will require some renewable engery.
Under the systems, municipalities contract to buy power at a certain rate, and offer that rate to all homeowners. All homeowners are automatically included in the contract, but individual owners can "opt out" of the program and purchase electricity on their own.
More than 50 municipalities across the state have energy aggregation, including Woodbridge, Sayreville, Monroe Township and Plainsboro in Middlesex County, according to energy industry figures.