Berlin Weighing Energy Options For Future Contract

BERLIN – The Berlin Utilities Commission (BUC) continued its investigation into the possible future of the town’s energy supply when they heard a presentation this week from Erik Paulson, vice president of Wholesale Market for Customized Energy Solutions.

For weeks now, the BUC has been exploring the town’s options as far as finding a new electrical supplier when the current contract runs out. At the last meeting, which the BUC held in joint with the Mayor and Council, the option of joining PJM, a nationwide energy supplier that would allow the town to purchase power wholesale, was discussed.

Paulson supplied additional information and proposed a few directions the town might go. Besides joining PJM, Berlin could simply renegotiate with its current supplier or another long-term dealer and purchase a one- to three-year, full-contract.

Paulson pointed out that the market for energy is about the lowest it has been in the last six to eight years and a full contract might be advantageous.

However, he also presented the benefits of joining PJM and buying electricity wholesale.

“If you go directly to the wholesale market, you’re cutting out the middleman,” Paulson said.

The main issue with joining PJM, besides an annual fee, is that Berlin lacks the staff to monitor and take full advantage of the wholesale energy market, an entity that Paulson compared to the stock exchange.

Paulson informed the commission that if Berlin did join PJM the town would most likely want to hire a consulting firm, much like his own, to manage the account. He did stress that he was not in attendance as a salesmen, only a consultant and didn’t want the commission to think that he was steering them toward using his firm.

“If we don’t think we can save you at least 10 percent, I wouldn’t recommend using us,” said Paulson.

Paulson further explained that his next recommendation would be for the BUC to conduct a survey and to put together hard numbers comparing the cost of long-term contracts with what they’d be paying in annual PJM and consulting fees.

Paulson did admit that simply conducting such a survey could be expensive, estimating the price to be in the $6,000 to $10,000 range and the wait approximately six to eight weeks before the commission would have the results.

Still, in the long run, such a consultation and subsequent membership in the PJW could potentially save the town a lot of money. The BUC still has time before the current contract is over, giving them the chance to further discuss the issue before making a suggestion to the Mayor and Council.