The unanimous vote was for first reading of an ordinance that allows, but does not obligate, the township to become an energy aggregator under the Government Energy Aggregation Act (GEA).
The ordinance is scheduled for second reading, a public hearing and adoption on Sept. 24.
Several residents told council at the meeting they don't like the idea of government telling them which electric company to use.
"You are setting in motion what we've been trying to work against," said one woman. "An over-reaching government."
However, Councilman Brendan Weiner said residents have the chance to opt out of the energy aggregation program. He added that JCP&L is still delivering the electricity and residents can still call them with questions or complaints.
He said that after the ordinance is adopted, the township will continue to meet with potential energy companies and will conduct "a public awareness campaign," including holding public hearings, as well as meetings in smaller venues and gatherings.
After that, if the township decides to enter into energy aggregation, all 20,000 households will receive a notice in the mail that the program is beginning, Weiner said.
If they want to opt out, there will be a phone number for them to call so they could opt out initially or leave with 30 days notice.
He also said that businesses will have the option to participate in energy aggregation, but they will have to actually take steps to be in it, unlike residents who do not have to do anything to participate.
Weiner said he has been participating in an energy aggregation program in his own home and has realized about $15 to $20 savings per month. He said the township is still gathering information about potential savings, but that savings for residents could be as high as 15 to 20 percent.
"To me, it's like a no-brainer," he said. "And I've looked into this a lot."
GEA programs, which were established a decade ago, potentially create savings by allowing municipal governments to first aggregate the energy needs of residential, commercial and government accounts, then buy energy supply from third-party suppliers at prices below the average utility rate, according to the state Board of Public Utilities (BPU).
The savings comes on the supply portion of the bill, with transmission and other fees unaffected by the move to aggregation.
If adopted, the ordinance would then require a bidding process for third-party suppliers, according to BPU guidelines.
The township has about 43,000 residents and about 21 retirement communities, a few of which have also been researching their own energy aggregation options, Weiner said.