The Star-Ledger

N.J. Electric Bills Are Expected To Fall About $5 Per Month On Average

The Star-Ledger — Wednesday, February 9, 2011

By Salvador Rizzo / Statehouse Bureau

New Jerseyans will get a jolt of relief on their electricity bills beginning this June, the Board of Public Utilities announced today.

Residents and small businesses can expect reductions of $4.34 to $5.63 on an average monthly bill, depending on their power company. The cuts range from about 3 percent to 5 percent. Electric bills decreased about 1 percent last year for nearly all the state's power companies.

"It's generally good news that prices are falling," said BPU President Lee Solomon. "The board will continue to make every effort to drive ratepayers' utility costs down and improve the state's economic competitiveness."

The commissioners credited the lower rates to a drop in energy prices, especially for natural gas. The changes are the result of a yearly auction for new service contracts, where energy suppliers offer a price to power companies. The winning price gets passed on to ratepayers directly.

Consumer advocates said any drop in utility bills was welcome news but that the board's process raised concerns.

"Any decrease is better than an increase, which is what we had been seeing for many years in New Jersey," said Ev Liebman, director of organizing and advocacy for New Jersey Citizen Action. "However, we don't believe that there's enough transparency with the auction."

Liebman said the board only releases the names of the winning bidders and the winning bid prices, but not, for example, the contracts that the winners have with third-party suppliers.

At today's board meeting, Solomon and other commissioners said New Jersey's process was one of the most open in the country.

PSE&G customers can expect to pay 3.5 percent less; Atlantic Electric, 4.47 percent; JCP&L 4.63 percent; and Rockland Electric Company, 3.4 percent.

Stefanie Brand of the state Division of Rate Counsel said New Jersey has had much higher rates compared with other states.

"Any drop's good as far as I'm concerned," she said.

She and Liebman, however, said they believe two power companies, Atlantic Energy and Rockland, could have gotten a lower price from suppliers.

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