The Borough of High Bridge is considering a Community Energy Aggregation (CEA) Program through the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative for residents of High Bridge. The CEA program is overseen by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities and the NJ Division of Rate Council. There is a law that allows municipalities to pool the energy usage from all residents within each municipality in an effort to find a lower rate on the electric supply portion of your bill. JCP&L is still your utility and will continue providing all of their current services such as delivery, meter readings, billing/payments, emergency services, etc. The CEA program changes only the supplier and the supply rate for your electricity.
The Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative was established in May 2018, and has grown from three municipalities to ten in the past two years. This program is very different than individual third party supply contracts and offers consumer protections that aren’t typically available outside this program: a non-variable rate, no penalties or fees, and the flexibility to opt-out at any time. This program is an opt-out program, which means that if you do not want to enroll in the program you will need to reply by mail, phone, or online; please note that this will only be necessary should the Borough of High Bridge move forward with joining the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative’s CEA program.
The CEA public informational meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 6 online at 6 p.m.
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You can also learn more about the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative by visiting www.njaggregation.us/HAEC.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative? In 2018, the Borough of Califon, in conjunction with the Township of Bethlehem and the Town of Clinton, formed the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative (HAEC) and established a Community Energy Aggregation (CEA) program (also referred to as a Government Energy Aggregation program) for their residents. The CEA program allows municipalities to pool the energy usage of all residents within each municipality in an effort to find a lower rate on the electric supply portion of residents’ bills. Currently there are 10 towns participating in the cooperative.
Who oversees the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative process? The program’s Energy Agents, Commercial Utility Consultants and Concord Energy Services, report all activities related to administration and management of the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative to the NJ Board of Public Utilities, the Division of Rate Counsel, and the Department of Community Affairs.
Is my municipality the only one considering participation in an Energy Aggregation Program? No. Over 60 municipalities throughout the New Jersey are currently participating in CEA programs.
If the Borough of High Bridge joins the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative, does every resident have to be enrolled in this program? No. Residents can choose not to participate by opting out of the program. Instructions on how to opt-out of the program will be included in an information packet that will be mailed to all eligible residents – meaning residents who are not already enrolled in their own contract with a third-party supplier and solar customers – if a program begins in High Bridge.
Will residents be penalized if they choose not to participate in the program? No. If a resident does not want to be a part of the CEA program, they can stay with their utility’s default energy providers or choose their own third party supplier. There will never be a fee or penalty associated with participation or non- participation in this program.
Who will read residents’ meters during the program? JCP&L will still read residents’ meters.
Are residents participating in the program going to receive more than one bill? No. Residents will continue to pay one bill directly to JCP&L.
If residents have solar panels, can they be a part of this program? At this time, suppliers are not able to process the net metering portion of solar credits, and we recommend that those residents opt-out of the program to avoid losing their credits.
What If a resident is already under contract with a third-party supplier? Residents who are under their own contract with a third-party supplier at the time a CEA program starts are NOT included in the program. They are welcome to opt-in to the CEA program and are encouraged to check with their third-party supplier regarding any early termination provisions before doing so.
Can a resident’s information be sold to advertisers or energy companies? No. A resident’s information, including their account number, is confidential and can only be used to set up the municipality’s CEA program.
What information will residents receive about the program? When High Bridge offers a CEA program to their residents, eligible residents – meaning residents who are not enrolled in their own contract with a third-party supplier and solar customers – will receive an information packet which provides important details including the program rate, the term – how many months and the start and end dates, the name of the chosen supplier and their contact information, instructions on how to opt-out of the program, and dates, times and locations of education sessions about the program.
Q & A – Government Energy Aggregation
Aggregator Questions –
- What are the costs to High Bridge and its customers for utilizing this aggregator, Concord?
Response: There are no costs to the Borough of High Bridge or its residents for utilizing Commercial Utility Consultants (CUC) and Concord Energy Services (Concord) as energy agents for this program.
Does the Borough pay them a consulting or other fee? If so, how is that fee offset.
Response: The Borough of High Bridge does not pay CUC or Concord a consulting or other fee.
- Does our attorney review the terms and conditions; and what is that cost.
Response: If attorney review is deemed necessary, attorney review costs up to $2,000 are reimbursable to the Borough of High Bridge by the winning supplier after a Supplier Services Agreement is executed.
- Are businesses and lower income eligible; any other categories besides solar customers not eligible?
Response: This program is limited to RS (Residential Service) accounts; as such, commercial accounts are not eligible for participation in the program. Any resident who is already enrolled in their own individual contract with a third-party supplier will not be included in this program, nor will residents with net meters associated with solar panels/array. Residents receiving assistance through LIHEAP will continue to do so during their participation in this program.
- Are there Service Level Agreements ; between and among whom; who reviews.
Response: There are four agreements associated with the Borough of High Bridge’s participation in the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative:
The Government Aggregation Agreement is the agreement between the Borough of High Bridge, CUC and Concord. This agreement has been utilized by CUC and Concord since 2015.
The Local Distribution Company Agreement is the agreement between the Borough of High Bridge and JCP&L. This is JCP&L’s document which has been reviewed by the NJ Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
The Supplier Services Agreement is the agreement between the Borough of High Bridge and the winning supplier, if any, at the time of auction. This document is reviewed by the BPU and the Division of Rate Counsel prior to the auction.
The Cooperative Pricing Agreement and Rider are documents required for the Borough’s participation in the Hunterdon Area Energy Cooperative. These documents are reviewed by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs
- Where is the aggregator, Concord, making its money for this work?
Response: CUC and Concord, the program’s energy agents, are paid by the winning supplier of the auction only if an award is made.
- As a residential customer, is the contract for aggregation with the Borough or with the Aggregator?
Response: The Supplier Services Agreement is between the aggregator (the Borough of High Bridge) and the winning supplier, if any, at the time of auction. The Government Energy Aggregation agreement is between the Borough of High Bridge, CUC and Concord; this agreement lays out the responsibilities of CUC and Concord to the Borough of High Bridge. A contract summary is provided to all eligible residents in the information packet about the program.
Fees and Billing
- Customers have 30 days to opt out; are there fees for cancellation after the 30 days?
Response: Residents will never be charged any fees for cancellation or enrollment in the program, during or after the initial 30-day opt-out period.
- Will JCPL charge any fee for opting back to them; if so, how much.
Response: JCP&L will not charge any fee for returning residents to the Basic Generation Service.
- If opt out – who handles the billing discrepancies and notifying JCPL we opt back to them. Describe the process. For example, how does a customer re-sign with JCPL and who handles that.
Response: JCP&L, the winning supplier, and CUC and Concord can all assist residents with their billing questions. Residents can opt-out of the program by returning the response card that will be included in the information packet about the program, by calling the program’s opt-out hotline, and by visiting the program’s webpage. The winning supplier will send JCP&L all opt-out requests that CUC, Concord and the supplier receive during the initial 30-day opt-out period and throughout the entire term of the contract. Residents can also opt-out by contacting the winning supplier and JCP&L directly.
- Please confirm customers get one bill; does the bill come from JCPL? How does the biller (JCPL) know which rate to bill correctly.
Response: The Supplier Services Agreement states that the supplier must utilize consolidating billing through the utility. Residents will continue to receive one bill from JCP&L, and make one payment to JCP&L. JCP&L receives a copy of the Supplier Services Agreement which states the program rate and term.
- If there is a billing disparity between JCPL rates and aggregator rates which company is responsible for issuing adjustments and/or credits.
Response: CUC and Concord will assist participating residents in resolving any billing disputes with the supplier and JCP&L.
- Describe the commitment that a residential customer has if any. For example, are we committing to a certain number of kilowatt hours; what happens if we fall below that amount.
Response: Each resident participating in the program will be charged the program rate for each kWh they use. There are no minimum and maximum kWh usage requirements under this program.
- What paperwork does a residential or business customer have to provide to the aggregator.
Response: This program is limited to residential customers; as such, no commercial accounts are eligible for participation. If an award is made, the Supplier Services Agreement will be sent to JCP&L, and the utility will then provide CUC and Concord with a list of eligible residents within the Borough of High Bridge’s geographic boundary – those residents who are no already under contract with a third-party supplier or who have net meters associated with solar panels/arrays. Residents do not need to provide any paperwork, unless they wish to opt-out using the response card provided in the information packet they receive about the program.
- What is the baseline savings the Borough is expecting; what is the baseline savings a customer is expecting. Describe who monitors and how savings are communicated. For example, are there reports provided to the Borough; if so, when and what are the measurements to ensure savings are worthwhile.
Response: Recent auctions within the JCP&L territory have resulted in rate reductions of 7% to 10%. Due to fluctuations in the Basic Generation Service price-to-compare, the percentage of rate reduction will also fluctuate throughout the term of the program. CUC and Concord will provide monthly and/or quarterly performance reports to the Borough of High Bridge; the frequency of the reporting is entirely up to the Borough. The Borough of High Bridge can also monitor the aggregate savings at any time through CUC’s online savings tool. In addition, participating residents can monitor their savings at any time through the same online savings tool. The BGS price-to-compare will also be provided on participating residents’ monthly bills from JCP&L.
- What customer information is provided to the aggregator.
Response: JCP&L provides CUC, Concord and the winning supplier with the name of the eligible account holder, service address, mailing address, customer number, and the most recent 12-month history of kWh usage. Pursuant to N.J.A.C. 14:4-6.3 (f):
All customer information provided to a government aggregator, or its designee, by an LDC under this subchapter shall be deemed confidential and is exempt from the public disclosure requirements of the Open Public Records Act, N.J.S.A. 47:1A-1 et seq. Such information shall not be used or disseminated by any person for any purpose other than the facilitation of the aggregation program.
High Bridge Mayor and Council Question
- Will the Borough commit any savings it realizes on its budget be directed toward road improvements and not other budgetary items.
Response: The Borough of High Bridge’s municipal buildings and facilities are not included in this program; therefore, the Borough will not realize any savings.