A bill recently released to the Assembly could result in lower energy costs for Vineland’s municipally owned electric company, according to one of the measure’s sponsors.

The bill would allow for three or more municipalities that operate their own electric companies to create a shared-services energy authority. The authority could then enter into wholesale power supply contracts to buy needed electricity or sell off excess power, the bill states.

“I am a strong proponent of shared services that improve efficiencies or reduce costs, but current rules prevent a handful of utilities, including (Vineland Municipal Electric Utility), from capitalizing on this opportunity,” Assemblyman Sam Fiocchi, R-Cape May, Cumberland, Atlantic, said.

“This bill creates new opportunities for these utilities to join together as a cooperative,” he said. “With this stronger presence in the competitive marketplace, the result could be significant energy savings for ratepayers.”

VMEU announced in October 2012 that it finally reached its goal of having the lowest rates in New Jersey. That came after VMEU customers got a half-cent reduction in the utility’s fuel-adjustment charge. That charge is the part of the bill customers pay to finance purchase of fuel for power generation.

The reduction set the average monthly cost for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month at $135.98. That is the lowest charge in the state as shown by statistics compiled by the Public Power Association of New Jersey. The average monthly cost for 1,000 kilowatt hours in the state is $174.18, association statistics show.

“Many struggling families find New Jersey unaffordable, and we can lower the cost of running their lights with this basic change in the way we allow these utilities to conduct business,” Fiocchi said. “Sharing services is cost-effective, and with additional buying power, that means electric customers in Vineland will be able to hold on to more of their hard-earned money.”

Fiocchi said the bill would also benefit municipal utilities in Bergen, Burlington, Middlesex, Morris and Ocean counties.

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.