Even though it's been on the books since 1999, towns are slowly exploring a plan aimed at saving residents money on their electric bills. It's called Community Energy Aggregation (CEA) that allows towns to enter an agreement with electricity suppliers at lower rates through an energy consulting company.

Flickr User Claudio Schwarz

Ken Esser, with Highland Park energy consulting firm Gabel Associates, says in today's energy markets, municipalities can typically save their residents between 5% and 15% on their electric rates. Plumstead Township, which was the first town in the state to sign up for the program, secured 14% savings for its residents. Toms river has been able to save 11% according to a Gabel press release.

Esser says that there are many advantages to CEA, "one, you get the consumer protections guaranteeing that the price is less than what you'd ordinarily be paying to the utility company 'A' .... 'B' there's no evergreen provisions or anything like that. There's a finite period of time for the contract ... Typically we're talking about a one to two-year time frame. And the third big thing, is that the resident can opt out at anytime."

For those electric company loyalist, apparently CEA doesn't affect which electric company you use. When it comes to JCP&L, Esser says, "they don't care where the electricity is coming from, their job is reliability of the system and moving it from point A to point B so they still get their wires charges at the end of the day. They're still your utility company. They're still in charge of reliability. If your lights go out it's JCP&L's responsibility. This program has absolutely zero impact on the reliability of residents."

Esser also explains that customers will also still be getting one JCP&L electric bill as well. The only difference is that it will show the rates that you would normally pay on average and also the savings you get by using the CEA program.

However, once a municipality signs up, residents are automatically signed in and would have to opt out, an issue that has ruffled the feathers of some. Additionally, folks who have little trust for the government are apprehensive because this program is offered through municipalities.

Last week Colts Neck approved an ordinance to retain Gabel Associates to prepare a bid to secure lower energy rates. Wildwood is allowing Commercial Utility Consortium of Sewell to do the same.