Trenton, New Jersey quietly helping consumers save on energy

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A state bill awaits the Governor of New Jersey’s signature to be signed into law which will simplify the process for consumers to compare the prices of energy from all competitive energy suppliers available to them.

The Press of Atlantic City
From the editorial page of The Press of Atlantic City

Lost in the flood of year-end legislation in Trenton is a bipartisan bill that will make it much easier for consumers to compare the prices of energy from all providers available to them.

The bill is as simple as it is powerful. It instructs the state Board of Public Utilities to require all providers of electricity and natural gas to put their current and projected prices online and maintain them there.

Then the BPU will give consumers links to the companies’ pricing websites and will gather all of the prices and provider information into a public database that consumers can use to make informed decisions about their energy providers.

New Jersey deregulated its energy markets more than a decade ago, allowing residential users to choose to have third-party firms provide the electricity or gas that’s delivered by their regulated utility. For example, they could sign up to buy their natural gas from Verde Energy, which would then be delivered by South Jersey Gas the same way the utility delivers its own gas.

Choosing a third-party supplier can result in significant savings on monthly energy bills, but it can also result in spending more or even seeing a temporary spike in the cost.

When the record cold of the Polar Vortex caused stocks of natural gas to plummet in 2014, the price of gas in the spot markets soared. Third-party suppliers, who usually get their gas or power in those markets, passed along the price increase to consumers who had opted for variable (and usually lower) rates instead of fixed rates. That caused their bills to double or even triple for a month or two.

The energy pricing bill will enable consumers to get accurate price information on electricity and natural gas in one place, instead of having to track down providers on the Internet and then typically call for what is still incomplete pricing. It should also make it easier for consumers to know what kind of contracts they’re considering with providers.

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