May 6, 2020

Decision on New Energy Program Should Have Included More Public Input

To the Editor:

The April 29th Mailbox of Town Topics included several letters reacting — both pro and con — to the Princeton Community Renewable Energy Program (PCRE). That, in and of itself, suggests that any decision should have been made with far more public input. This town is blessed with many brilliant people; shouldn’t we have heard from more of them before a contract was signed with ConstellationNewEnergy (CNe)?

The town may have been working on the PCRE for months/years, but it only appeared on the public’s radar in the last two weeks, and feels rushed. Commissions and boards are not a substitute for the general public. This decision process should have been given broader coverage and publicity in advance. The town phone system could have reached every resident and announced Zoom-type meetings in advance of the decision. My elected officials should have been leading several well-publicized community-wide open discussions about possible changes to our electric utility. Would it not have been better to hear from all sides and hash out any differences before a decision is made?

As bad as the decision was, the choice of vendor was worse. In a survey of the top 25 US retail electric providers (REPs) surveyed, CNe tied for the lowest JDPowers price and customer satisfaction scores, with a score of 2/5. Other REPs serving New Jersey had 4/5 and 5/5 customer satisfaction scores  ( A look at Yelp ( revealed many deeply upset and frustrated customers. While telephoning a utility company is often daunting, this REP stood out for particularly poor service. And considering that many town residents may not opt-out immediately, they will face an unpleasant process just to restore things to the way they were. I am opting out now, just so I don’t have to call CNe later.

I cannot imagine the amount of the honoraria that REP lobbyists gave to our state legislators to mandate that each and every town deciding on a provider must have their citizenry opt-out rather than opt-in, but it was honoraria well spent.

Dave Saltzman
Montadale Drive