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Look for Lower Electricity Bills This Summer, Thanks to Cheap Natural Gas

Consumers should catch a break on their bills, albeit a small one, based on results of BPU's annual power auction

BPU Joseph Fiordaliso
Credit: Amanda Brown
Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the New Jersey BPU

New Jersey electric customers will see their bills dip slightly this June, as falling natural-gas prices continue to lower costs for residents and small businesses.

For the typical residential customer, bills could fall from 1.9 percent to 4.6 percent, based on the results of an annual online auction in which electric utilities buy the power supplies they will need to keep the lights on for ratepayers.

The results, announced by the state Board of Public Utilities, which oversees the annual auction, reflect a trend in recent years in which the cost of power has typically dropped, a development attributed to new and plentiful supplies of natural gas being tapped in Pennsylvania and other states.

For customers of Atlantic City Electric, the average monthly bill will drop by $5.86, or 4.65 percent to $120.23; at Jersey Central Power & Light, it will fall by $3.25, or 3.53 percent to $88.71; at Public Service Electric & Gas, bills will dip by $2.16, or 1.9 percent to $110.69; and Rockland Electric customers will pay $5.09 less, or 4.3 percent to $114.13.

The results will lower energy costs in the state, noted Joseph Fiordaliso, president of the BPU. "Overall, the 2018 auction was another success,'' he said. The auction was the 17th conducted by the state agency since the energy sector was deregulated in 1999.

The only negative on the horizon, Fiordaliso said, is the rising costs of transmission charges, which are nearly equal to the cost of generating the power sold to customers. The board has no power over transmission rates, which are set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, he noted.

"They have escalated tremendously over the last decade,'' Fiordaliso said. "I don't see anything that is going to decrease those costs.''

Stefanie Brand, director of the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel, called the auction results good news for consumers.

"In the last few years, we've seen an increase in the number of surcharges (on bills), so it is nice to see a piece of the cost falling,'' Brand said.

The board oversaw two auctions again this year — one for residential and small businesses and the other for larger commercial and industrial customers who have not switched to different energy supplies.

Both auctions secured commitments for up to approximately $6 billion worth of purchases covering about 8,400 megawatts of customers' requirements.

The costs for the commercial and industrial customers bumped higher from last year's auction. Officials attributed the rise to an increase in capacity prices overseen by the PJM Interconnection, the regional grid operator, and mandates to buy more electricity from renewable energy sources.

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