Good News for Consumers: NJ Electric Bills to Hold Steady

Tom Johnson | February 8, 2019 | Energy & Environment
After past volatility in the market, new rates for residential and small commercial customers to dip a little or rise a little

Credit: Amanda Brown
BPU president Joseph Fiordaliso
In a bit of good news for consumers, bills will remain relatively flat for most residential and small commercial customers when new rates kick in for the state’s four electric utilities in June.

New Jersey Board of Public Utilities president Joseph Fiordaliso described the results of the 18th annual electricity auction conducted by the agency a success, adding that it will be beneficial to most customers.

The results were generally viewed positively because they contrast with past years when volatility in the market led to spikes in prices for consumers, a trend reversed several years ago when new and plentiful supplies of natural gas from Pennyslvania and other states flattened out power prices.

For the typical residential customers of Jersey Central Power & Light and Rockland Electric, prices will dip slightly by $2.03 a month for the former and by 59 cents a month for the latter. Public Service Electric & Gas customers will see bills rise by 35 cents a month and Atlantic City Electric bills will rise by 90 cents per month.

“This was not a particularly big jump. It’s very much in line with other auctions,’’ said Frank Mossburg, a consultant at Bates White, retained by the BPU.

In two separate online auctions, the state seeks to procure electric supplies for a one-year period, beginning June 1. One auction is for residential and small commercial customers; the other for larger commercial and industrial customers.

The average bill will remain unchanged

Both auctions secured commitment for up to approximately $6 billion worth of supplies, or approximately 7,800 megawatts. In this year’s auction for residential and small commercial customers, winning prices for each of the four utilities increased between 2.4 percent and 7.6 percent compared to last year’s auction.

However, because the winning contracts are, for the most part, replacing older, slightly more expensive contracts from three years ago, the average residential bill will remain relatively unchanged.

“We’re pleased that prices remain stable,’’ said Jorge Cardenas, vice president of asset management for PSE&G, who noted the typical residential customer receiving both gas and electricity is paying about 30 percent lower than they paid a decade ago.

In the separate auction for larger commercial and industrial customers, the prices, on balance, were either lower or stable, according to the BPU.

New Jersey deregulated the energy marketplace in 1999. Since then, it has held the annual auctions for customers who choose to keep getting their electricity from their incumbent utility, a practice that has been adopted by other states. (Customers also had the option to find another energy supplier in the competitive marketplace.)