ROXBURY, NJ – The Roxbury Mayor and Council on Tuesday voted unanimously, if somewhat apprehensively, to introduce an ordinance necessary to begin involvement in “energy aggregation,” an effort that could cut residents’ electricity costs.

The vote is the first step required by law for Roxbury to get involved in an energy aggregation plan wherein residential electricity bills might be slashed by at least 10 percent. Getting involved in such a program was recommended about six months ago by a sub-committee composed of Councilman Dan Kline, Councilwoman Jaki Albrecht and Councilman Richard Zoschak.

However, subsequent questions about the wisdom of proceeding - raised by Mayor Bob DeFillippo, Councilman Mark Crowley, Councilman Jim Rilee and Councilman Fred Hall – slowed the process. Earlier this month, the council voted against introducing the ordinance, with opponents asking for revisions that – they felt – would give the municipality more flexibility.

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Kline, the council’s sole Democrat, has been the main proponent of getting the town involved in an energy aggregation program. In an interview, he stressed that Tuesday’s action was just a baby step, albeit one in the right direction.

“This was just the first reading,” Kline noted. “We still have to vote on a second reading. And if that second reading should pass, the next step is adopting a resolution. If the council decides it is in our best interest, the resolution would allow us to either join a co-op, use a private company to go to an energy auction or allow Roxbury to go to an auction on our own. We will have a full choice of what to do.”

Adopting the ordinance would allow third-party energy suppliers to view the township’s electricity use rates and make proposals, Kline said. “That’s literally all it does,” he said. “The ordinance itself is non-binding. It does not commit Roxbury to anything.”

Still Uncertain

Although he voted in favor of introducing the measure, Crowley expressed reservations about doing so. “I still have serious concerns … but I will vote yes,” he said. “This will carry it further and we can get better information.”

Kline, in the interview, said the biggest misconception among his colleagues has been that the ordinance was some type of commitment. He said he believes this concern has been largely alleviated.

“I think we were able to communicate effectively that the ordinance is non-binding and that we should proceed with a first reading, potentially be able to proceed with a second reading - and passing - without becoming committed to any action whatsoever,” Kline said.

He doesn’t see a hurdle-free road ahead, however.

“I think there may be some more obstacles raised at the second reading, but the biggest challenge will be the resolution, which can be passed only after a second-reading of the ordinance is passed.”

By joining an energy aggregation program, the township would “get access to a private energy market available through a private auction.” That means it could attain reduced energy rates for residents, according to the energy sub-committee.

Automatic Enrollment with Opt-Out Ability

Residents would continue to be serviced by Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), but the electricity would come through third-party suppliers at a reduced cost.

“Based on current market conditions, individual accounts can potentially save 12 percent off their entire bill (and) … 17 percent or more off the supply portion” of their bill,” said Kline in a presentation about six months ago.

One aspect of concern to others on the council is the fact that residents would automatically become enrolled in the program unless they are currently enrolled in an individual contract with a third-party electricity supplier. Kline said any resident can “opt-out” of the township program, either before it begins or after.

“If you have no interest in participating, you don’t have to,” Kline said in his prior presentation. “We’re not going to force you to do anything ... And if you see your neighbor’s energy bill and realize you’ve made a mistake, you can opt back in whenever you’d like. You can opt in and out as often as you like.”

The program would impact only the energy supply portion of electric bills, not the delivery portion.

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