NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - City officials are one step closer to purchasing electricity in bulk for all residential property owners, and to requiring that the energy eventually come entirely from environmentally-friendly renewable sources.

Council members last week passed an ordinance on first reading to have the city negotiate with a power supplier to provide electricity to all city homeowners at the same rate.

This system of "energy aggregation," which is employed in more than 50 municipalities in New Jersey, is designed to have towns obtain electricity at a lower cost to the property owners. Individual owners can opt our of the program to continue receiving power from provider on their own. Business owners can apply to be included in the program.

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Council members adopted a proposed ordinance that the activist group New Jersey Food and Water Watch submitted last month along with a petition bearing the signatures of 669 city residents. The petitions called for city to adopt the ordinance, or place the proposal on the November ballot for a vote.

City leaders say they have been exploring energy aggregation and seeking renewable energy sources.

"New Brunswick’s commitment to sustainable practices continues to progress as city officials plan for the implementation of third-party energy providers as a resource for more renewable energy in our community," Mayor James Cahill's office said in a statement.

A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the Aug. 15 council meeting.

Under the ordinance, a power provider seeking a contract with the city must obtain 30 percent of it energy from renewable sources by 2020, 50 percent by 2024, 80 percent by 2028, 90 percent by 2032 and 100 percent by 2035.

Cahill's office said the city will work with the  Middlesex Regional Educational Services Commission, which has experience with purchasing renewable energy. New Brunswick has a cooperative purchasing agreement with the commission.