November 17, 2021

Contract Coming to a Close For Renewable Energy Program

By Anne Levin

The 18-month term of the Princeton Community Renewable Energy Program (PCRE) will end next month. The energy aggregation project, which began in June 2020, was designed to provide a supply of electricity that was cheaper and had more renewable energy than power supplied by PSE&G.

The municipality had an 18-month contract with Constellation NewEnergy Inc., “which more than doubled Princeton’s renewable energy support by providing 50 percent renewable energy content, and saved residents a few dollars on their electricity bills,” reads a statement from Sustainable Princeton. The nonprofit hopes to work with the town again on a second iteration of the program when conditions for renewable electricity are favorable.

Residents do not have to take any action to switch back to PSE&G, and will soon receive a letter from PSE&G stating that their electricity supply will be automatically switched back to the utility starting with the December 2021 meter reading. There will be no changes in service.

There was no cost to the town to offer and maintain the PCRE program. Residents were offered the option to increase to 100 percent renewable electricity for a slight premium of about $4 a month. Molly Jones, executive director of Sustainable Princeton, said information will be available next month about how many people participated in the 100 percent option. In the meantime, several people have reached out to Sustainable Princeton expressing their support for another contract.

“The town will have to go out and bid again to get a rate that is favorable,” Jones said. “It depends on the electricity supply market. Other New Jersey towns that use renewable energy programs go through the same sort of cycle where the term ends, and when market timing is good, they go out to bid, and do another iteration. We will have more of a sense of the total participation in December, when we get final information from Constellation.”

Residents may receive solicitation phone calls and letters from third-party suppliers selling green energy. “Be aware that these solicitations are not associated with the PCRE program,” reads the statement. “Constellation NewEnergy Inc. is the only third-party supplier associated with the PCRE program. Unfortunately, some third-party suppliers that use direct marketing to enroll new customers target communities with energy aggregation programs like PCRE and may use deceptive advertising to gain new customers.”

While the level of participation is still to be determined, the decision to offer the program was a positive one, according to Jones. “From our perspective, the program has definitely been a success because it achieved the goal of more than doubling the amount of renewable content that Princeton is supporting,” she said. “To do that in tandem with some level of cost saving — that seems like an undeniable success. The reason we are getting so much outreach is that so many people were in support of it, and are eager to figure out if it will renew.”