Food and Water Watch: Woodbridge, North Brunswick Adopt Bold Clean Energy Plans
Petition drives spur councils to create community choice power programs
Woodbridge and North Brunswick have adopted new ordinances that will establish community choice aggregation programs for residents in both towns, with a goal of achieving 100 percent clean, renewable electricity by the year 2030.
The ordinances were presented by residents and backed by the advocacy organization Food & Water Watch, which has spearheaded efforts to enact similar programs in towns and cities across the state.
Community choice aggregation (CCA) enables a municipality to essentially make bulk purchases of electricity supply. While billing and electricity delivery is not affected, CCA programs tend to save residents money on their monthly bills. A growing number of communities across the country are using these programs to increase the use of clean, renewable energy.
The grassroots campaigns are based on state laws that give residents of many New Jersey municipalities the power to directly petition their local government to consider a specific ordinance. Food & Water Watch organizers and residents worked together to collect the signatures necessary to prompt a local council to either vote to approve the ordinance, or put the question to voters to decide.
“Once this program is implemented, renewable energy used jumps to 50% and increases year over year until we reach 100% renewable energy,” said Leigh Darden, one of the leaders of the petition drive in Woodbridge. “This program has been successfully implemented in several towns across the state. It doesn’t raise taxes, and people can rest assured their electricity sources aren’t hurting the environment.”
“Climate change is one of the biggest issues of our time and I think what we’ve seen with this pandemic is that it’s important to be proactive, to take action early, and to do whatever we can at the local level to come up with workable solutions,” said Ariel Piña, one of the leaders of the petition drive in North Brunswick.
The Woodbridge Township Council voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance at its August 17 meeting, and the North Brunswick Council voted 4-2 to adopt the ordinance on August 30.
“These are big wins for our climate and clean air, and a huge boost for grassroots democracy,” said Food & Water Watch canvass director Charlie Kratovil. “Communities all across the state are showing that we can take bold climate action at the local level. In the midst of a deepening climate crisis, we need our state and federal representatives to follow their lead by enacting policies that transition our economy off fossil fuels and onto 100% clean renewable energy by 2030.”
In the spring, Food & Water Watch launched new petition campaigns in five cities and towns — Woodbridge, North Brunswick, Cherry Hill, Teaneck and Long Branch — to help create community choice aggregation programs. In August, CCA ordinances passed in Long Branch, North Brunswick and Woodbridge; petitions are still being collected in Cherry Hill, while township officials in Teaneck are trying to reject electronic signatures gathered under the COVID protocols enacted by Governor Murphy. Food & Water Watch is challenging that assertion in court.
Food & Water Watch has worked with residents to win similar 100% clean energy programs in Edison, New Brunswick, Collingswood, Asbury Park, Piscataway, East Brunswick, South Brunswick and Red Bank, and has a goal of enacting the policy in 10 additional towns and cities this year to put more than one million New Jersey residents on a path to achieve 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030.