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Town To Help Residents Buy Greener Energy

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Verona’s municipal government recently sent all residents a letter about a new program that will allow us to get our electricity from more sustainable sources and at a lower price than we now get from PSE&G. The program, which begins with the first meter reading in July, is the result of two years of work by Verona with the Sustainable Essex Alliance (SEA), an ad hoc group of the so-called green teams in many Essex County towns. All Verona households have been automatically included in the program, but anyone can opt out.

The town has posted the letter to its website, along with detailed information about the terms and there will be a public information session on the program at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 15, at the Community Center’s Annex on the second floor.

Here are some other questions you might have:

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Is this legal?
Yes. New Jersey deregulated energy supply in 1999, enabling individual residents to buy electricity from suppliers other than their local utility. The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has a website on third-party energy options. More recently, New Jersey allowed towns to bid for electricity for all their residents. The Community Energy Aggregation program also lets towns to link up with other towns to bid as even larger groups. The Sustainable Essex Alliance includes Verona, Glen Ridge, Montclair, South Orange and Maplewood.

What does it cost me?
There’s no extra cost to Verona residents, and the price of your electricity will be somewhat lower than what you now pay PSE&G. The program’s contract price os $0.11005 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is more than 10% below the current average PSE&G price for power supply. The town says an average resident could save about $150 over the full contract, which runs through December 2020.

What the heck is green energy?
Green energy is power produced by renewable sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, plants, algae or geothermal heat. The SEA program will have nearly double the renewable content of the energy we had been getting from PSE&G. Fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, and oil damage the environment when they are mined or extracted, and when they are burned. Greenhouse gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels is a major factor in climate change. While PSE&G produces some electricity at nuclear power plants that do not cause greenhouse gases, generating nuclear power does involve mining and the long-term storage of radioactive waste.

Is the town making money on this?
“Absolutely not,” says Township Manager Matt Cavallo. The township, like the Board of Education, has been actively pursuing energy conservation programs in its buildings through a PSE&G program. As Councilman Alex Roman explained during the Council meeting, the latest round of energy efficiency improvements affect indoor and outdoor lighting at Town Hall, the Community Center and the firehouse there, and the Department of Public Works garage, as well as any air conditioning or heating units at these buildings. The township expects to save 216,000 kilowatt hours of energy as a result of the program, which is the equivalent of taking 27 vehicles off the road. “After this, Lenny Waterman will never have to change a lightbulb again as long as he stays with us,” Roman quipped, referring to the head of Verona’s Buildings & Grounds Department.

Will I get a separate bill from somebody else?
No. You will only get your regular electricity bill from PSE&G. As Councilman Roman explained, programs like these merely compel the utility to buy some of its supply from other sources. “No one comes out and changes the wires to your house,” he said. “It’s the same bill, just a more environmentally responsible product.” And if you have a problem with your electricity, you call PSE&G, just like you’ve always done.

Do I have to do this?
No. There are opt-out instructions in the information sent out by the town, and you can do so at any time without penalties or fees. And if you already have your own third-party supply contract you are not part of this program.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]

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