Program to save town on lighting bill

By ROBERT LINNEHAN | The Cherry Hill Sun

The township entered into an interesting program at the end of June and came out of it with an 11 percent annual savings in its street lighting bill.

The township is now one of several of municipalities in the state, according to representatives, set to see savings of more than 11 percent on its street-lighting electricity bill through participation in the New Jersey Sustainable Energy Joint Meeting. This power-purchasing consortium of governmental entities began last year to collectively bid for gas and electricity contracts from third-party suppliers in order to reduce operating costs, all while moving toward sustainable energy alternatives.

On June 3, the township participated in an online reverse auction and came out of the process with a bulk street-lighting rate from the Woodbridge-based Hess Corp. The fixed-price energy accounts, such as those that cover public street-lighting for Cherry Hill, make up a significant portion of a municipality’s electric bill, township representatives said.

According to the NJSEM, the 11-percent savings on the utility’s cost will kick-in for the township this month and offer fixed savings through May 2011.

“One of our most substantial, ever-increasing and painfully unpredictable operating costs is purchasing energy to run municipal services,” Mayor Bernie Platt said. “When we paired that problem with our sustainability and environmental goals, such as reducing our carbon-emissions footprint, it seemed logical to join the NJSEM — and Township Council members and I are quite pleased that the decision is already paying off in the form of taxpayer savings.”

The NJSEM held its first public auction for natural gas in February, township representatives explained. Chief of Staff Dan Keashen said it was a bid that also helped several municipalities lock in a fixed, competitive price for an entire year.

Platt went on to explain that it comes down to the purchasing power of an aggregate group of municipal consumers.

“This has not been done in New Jersey before, but the proof is in the pudding,” he said. “Through this public bid for street-lighting, we received a lower rate than we had through our utility provider — that’s the sort of out-of-the-box collaborating that will help us through what is, essentially, a shared fiscal crisis.”