ROXBURY, NJ – Roxbury officials are trying to decide how to proceed, if at all, with a proposal to have the township partner with an “energy aggregation” company to provide discounted electricity to residents.
The Roxbury Mayor and Council recently adopted an ordinance necessary for the municipality to move forward with the idea. But comments July 23 by some on the panel, particularly Roxbury Mayor Robert DeFillippo, show that moving forward is not guaranteed.
Under the proposal, first suggested eight months ago by a council sub-committee that investigated the idea, Roxbury would choose a discount energy company. All residents - other than those who already signed-up with such a company on their own – would automatically be enrolled, but they would be able to opt-out at any time.
Electricity would still be delivered by Jersey Central Power & Light.
Roxbury Councilman Dan Kline, the main proponent of the idea, said residents would see the supply portion of their utility bills reduced by about 10 percent. He said the rates that come from Roxbury participating in a so-called “government energy aggregation” program would be better than those available to people who on their own chose a third-party energy supply company.
Nevertheless, some of Kline’s colleagues on the council are not wholeheartedly endorsing the idea. DeFillippo, along with Roxbury Councilman Mark Crowley, Roxbury Councilman Fred Hall and Roxbury Councilman Jim Rilee, said they are uncomfortable with the fact most residents would automatically be included in the program should the township take that route.
Unclear Path Ahead
Asked on July 23 about the township’s next steps, DeFillippo showed he still leans toward letting residents individually choose third-party energy suppliers, if they desire, instead of being automatically made part of a township plan.
“We have had this conversation in the past few days, and one of the things we are going to do first is we are going to get this information up on our website so individuals - if they choose and want to pursue getting discounted electrical service - have that information available,” said the mayor.
Kline is the only Democrat on the council and, while DeFillippo and his GOP colleagues insist politics is not playing a part in the issue, Kline suggests it might. The theory: The Republicans would not want a Democrat to be able to tout he spearheaded a program that saved residents on their energy bills.
Without attributing his thoughts to perceived differences in Democrat and Republican world views, DeFillippo seemed to be touching on that when he spoke at the July 23 meeting.
“As we do think about how we are going to proceed … I think it’s important to note that there’s a real distinction how we’re talking about this with one side saying the government is responsible for putting in front of people something that they (residents) have to tell us they don’t want and another group of us saying that’s not government’s role,” the mayor said.
He went on to contend “government’s role is to make information available to the public and to make certain they are getting the best possible service they can get,” adding the council should “let the residents make that decision on their own.”
The information to be put on the township website would include a link to the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU) website section called “NJ Power Switch.” In it, people can get information about third party energy suppliers, although some of the links to numerous companies listed no longer work.
Kline said it should be clearly stated on the township website that people who sign-up with a third-party energy supplier on their own would be bound by their contract with that company.
“I’d like to request that, when we get to point of disseminating information, we make it abundantly clear that any individual resident who enters one of these energy aggregation contracts on their own will be precluded from joining the township’s,” he said.