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Posted on: September 22, 2014

Passaic County launches process to cut residents’ energy costs

(Paterson, N.J. --- Sept. 18, 2014) --- Passaic County officials are starting a program to reduce electric bills for area residents, in what may be the largest effort of its kind in the New Jersey.
The state-supported process, known as Government Energy Aggregation (GEA), enables municipalities to join a cooperative in order to obtain lower utility rates for their residents. The county has successfully operated a similar cost-saving co-op for municipal energy needs since 2010.

“GEA adds significant value to the existing cooperative for municipal facilities’ gas and electric aggregation,” said Passaic County Freeholder Bruce James. “We’re glad to pass this additional savings opportunity on to our residents.”

Under the GEA program, the county will aggregate the energy needs of eligible residents in participating towns, then seek bids on this pool from more than 30 state-licensed energy suppliers. The suppliers bid their lowest rates in exchange for this potentially large volume of business.

To date, 12 municipalities in Passaic, Sussex and Morris counties have already chosen to participate in the co-op -- called the Passaic County Energy Cooperative Pricing System.
“We’re anticipating this will be the largest GEA program in the state, giving participating residents unprecedented buying power,” noted Freeholder Deputy Director T.J. Best.

There is no cost to municipalities or residents for these services, and each municipality decides on its own whether to accept any bids. Residents may also opt out of the cost-saving program at any time, without penalties or fees.

Each municipality must simply pass an ordinance to enable its residents to participate in the program and enjoy the savings.

“This is a terrific, risk-free program that will help residents across our region,” said Freeholder James. “It will help the area’s economy too, because residents will have more money available to spend in the community.”

Passaic County aims to save residents an amount equal to about one to two months of energy costs per year, according to James. In other words, if your energy bill is currently $250 a month, you could save about $250 - $400 a year through the county’s program.

The program also provides a unique price guarantee, said Freeholder James: If the local utility’s rate drops, the winning supplier must also drop its rate. As a result, participating residents will never pay more than the local utility would be charging during the same period.

In fact, residential utility rates are already set by state government, the freeholder explained. “GEA offers a way to compete against the government rate,” he noted.

Passaic is one of the first New Jersey counties, as a whole, to pursue GEA. Some municipalities have implemented GEA individually or within a small co-op of several towns.

Created by the N.J. Board of Public Utilities and the Rate Counsel (formerly known as the Ratepayer Advocate), GEA is designed to help people take advantage of energy deregulation and cut energy costs, while offering better protections than individuals could achieve on their own. “Aggregation” refers to customers who form a group to purchase energy.

With GEA, the utility that serves a residence will not change. For instance, PSE&G would continue to handle customer accounts, respond to outages and provide billing to residents. The only changes would be the energy supplier information on your bill -- and lower energy costs.
The county expects to run a live, online energy auction on residents’ behalf in late October or later, depending on market conditions. This highly efficient, web-based process enables state-licensed energy suppliers to provide bids on the same day, at the same time, providing for a true apples-to-apples comparison based on the energy market.

County and municipal officials will then have the option to accept or reject the bids. If a bid is accepted, the new rates would go into effect approximately 90 days after the auction. If all bids are rejected, no changes will occur.

If a bid is accepted, residents will have 30 days to opt out of the program before it starts. Residents will be able to opt-out anytime thereafter, without fees or penalties. All residents who have not already switched to a different (third-party) energy supplier will be automatically included.
Under the terms of the planned auction, rates are fixed for up to 24 months, with no early cancellation fees, penalties or fine print for customers. At the end of this period, another auction could be held. Residents would again have the option to stay with the program or opt-out, based on the new rates.

“Public education and outreach to the residents are the most important aspects of the success of this program,” said Freeholder Deputy Director T.J. Best, nothing that the county recently launched an informational campaign. “We want to make sure everyone understands and feels comfortable with the GEA program, so our residents can take full advantage of this unique, cost-saving opportunity.”

For more information, please visit njaggregation.us or call (855) 200-2648 toll-free, Monday through Friday between 9 am and 5 pm. Watch for updates at the county website: http://www.passaiccountynj.org/

Residents in participating municipalities who wish to opt-out of the rate-lowering program will have the opportunity to do so and will receive multiple notices explaining how to opt out. Additionally, residents can visit njaggregation.us or simply call the number above.

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Contact:
Julie Walsh, press contact for CUC
(609) 828-8981
jwalsh@CommercialUtility.com

Keith Furlong, press contact for Passaic County
(732) 687-0880
keith@gatewaymedia.biz

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