In New Jersey Community Choice is called Government Energy Aggregation (GEA). For the last ten years New Jersey has also had very effective policies for encouraging the installation of solar photovoltaic systems. By April, 2017, more than 73,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities were installed around the state on residentail and business rooftops, with solar capacity exceeding 1,630 megawatts from distributed generation and 495 megawatts from utility-scale generation. In 2016, solar power supplied 74% of New Jersey’s renewable electricity generation from both utility and distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) sources. Nearly two-thirds of that solar electricity came from distributed solar panels.
Community Choice in the Garden State came into being in 1999 as part of the electricity deregulation movement. It was followed by a more specific Government Energy Aggregation Act in 2003, but an opt-in requirement and cost cap stymied the growth of GEAs. Subsequent legislation removed these barriers and the first GEA programs launched in 2012.
New Jersey’s experiment with an opt-in aggregation demonstrated that CCAs really need to be designed as opt-out programs in order to succeed. Only with the automatic enrollment of all customers, except those who opt out, can a CCA reach the critical mass necessary to attract suppliers and succeed as a business.
New aggregation programs are initiated by majority vote of the municipality’s elected body and must be approved by the Board of Public Utilities.
New Jersey now allows the automatic enrollment of residential customers, but it still requires commercial and municipal accounts to opt-in during a specified period.
In 2012 Plumstead Township was the first community to initiate GEA in New Jersey. Other early adopters were Toms River, Montgomery and Monroe Townships. Each of those communities continues to offer GEA to its residents.
When Toms River Township’s initial contract was scheduled to end, the township did not receive any bids that were significantly below the price charged by Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L), and so it returned its customers to bundled service from JCP&L in June, 2015. Later, however, a rebidding process was able to obtain savings and Toms River’s GEA began offering aggregated electricity service again in March, 2016 under a 21-month contract with TriEagle Energy.
Montgomery Township awarded an 18-month contract to TriEagle Energy that began in June, 2016.
Monroe Township awarded a 24-month contract to TriEagle Energy that began in December, 2015.
COMMUNITIES WITH GEA PROGRAMS
As of January, 2017, this list shows the municipalities, by service territory, listed in the state of New Jersey with Government Energy Aggregation Plans.
In June, 2020, the town of Princeton launched Princeton Community Renewable Energy (PCRE), an aggregation program that changes residents’ electricity provider from the utility PSE&G to Constellation NewEnergy. 50% of the electricity Constellation NewEnergy provides to participating households is powered by clean energy (vs. 24% by PSE&G). Residents also have the ability to “opt-up” to a 100% renewable energy product.
Also in June, 2020, Food & Water Action and residents from Edison and East Brunswick submitted more than 3,000 petitions calling on the councils in both towns to create a municipal energy aggregation program that would deliver 100% clean, renewable electricity by the year 2030.
In September, 2020, Red Bank Council (Monmouth County) had a first reading of an ordinance for a Community Energy Aggregation Program that creates an option for the borough to pursue 100-percent renewable energy resources. To read the ordinance, click HERE.
Energy Aggregation for Montclair Explained: Stay in or Opt Out by March 7. Montclair Local, February 16, 2021
ACES – Alliance for Competitive Energy Services (Purchases electricity and natural gas for 430 NJ school districts. It is the largest GEA in the state.)
Sustainable Essex Alliance (serving the communities of Glen Ridge, Maplewood, Montclair, South Orange and Verona)
Food & Water Action (working in 15 municipalities to enact 100% renewable GEA programs)
MAEC (Morris Area Energy Cooperative, GEA serving 12 municipalities)
OTHER HELPFUL LINKS
CCA-Enabling Legislation: AB 2165
Board of Public Utilities (BPU) (Regulates public utilities)
Commercial Utility Consultants (Consultancy that advises NJ communities on creating GEAs.)
Energy Harbor (clean energy provider)
Gabel Associates (Consultancy that advises NJ communities on creating GEAs)
Good Energy (Consultancy that advises NJ communities on creating GEAs)
Government Energy Aggregation Summary (PDF, 3 pages, undated)
New Jersey Energy Master Plan (First issued in 2011, the plan has been in the process of being updated from mid-2015 to the present.)
Sustainable Jersey (A program of the NJ League of Municipalities that encourages cities and towns to become more sustainable.)
TriEagle Energy (Retail electricity supplier)
NEW JERSEY DISTRIBUTION UTLITIES
CURRENT AND EMERGING ISSUES
New Jersey’s GEA statute prohibits aggregation if the rate charged to customers isn’t lower than the current default rate charged by the local distribution utility. There is an exception to this if the program includes a higher percentage of green energy than is required by the current New Jersey renewable portfolio standard.
In March 2019, the Sustainable Essex Alliance (SEA) awarded a 17-month cooperative energy contract with Direct Energy to supply cheaper and greener electricity to thousands of residential customers in the five towns participating (Glen Ridge, Maplewood, Montclair, South Orange and Verona). It is estimated that in the first 12 months of the program the aggregate savings for the participating residents in the five towns was nearly $1.9 million. With the current contract with Direct Energy expiring in December, 2020, SEA received price proposals for the next 12 to 24 months in September, 2020 from four energy firms. Disappointingly, the proposals did not meet the SEA pricing criteria relative to the PSE&G rates and customers will be switched back to PSE&G service in January, 2021. After a second round of bidding in November however, the new prices were significantly improved, so after a few months of being switched back to PSE&G, members of SEA will again receive service on March, 2021. Under the new contract with Energy Harbor, the baseline product will provide participating residents with power supply that has nearly double the renewable energy content required of PSE&G and will offer a 100% opt-up option.
The total RPS requirement in New Jersey, including solar carve out, is 24.39% by EY 2028. Details can be found here.
New Jersey’s ranks fifth among US states in installed solar photovoltaic capacity.
New Jersey legislators have attempted to implement an RPS calling for 80% of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2050. A bill to do this (S1707) passed the Senate in 2016. However, the bill did not pass the Assembly and Governor Christie has threatened to veto it if it reaches his desk.
LEGISLATION (PARTIAL LIST)
Assembly Bill 2165 (2003) Government Energy Aggregation Act of 2003 (c. 24, “GEA Act”), authorized municipalities and/or counties to establish GEA programs after passing an ordinance or a resolution.
The provisions governing the formation and conduct of GEA programs can be found at N.J.S.A. 48:3-92 – N.J.S.A. 48:3-95. (N.J.S.A. stands for New Jersey Statutes Annotated).
The Board of Public Utilities’ rules for GEA programs can be found in N.J.A.C. 14:4-6, Government Energy Aggregation Programs. (N.J.A.C. stands for New Jersey Administrative Code).