Imagine if your power bill doubled. What would you do?
It’s a scenario that could happen in the next several years and a problem Sawnee Electric Membership Corporation notified its customers about in a survey sent out with recent bills.
The survey question said electric costs are estimated to double in the next several years.
“That’s a scary thought,” the survey says. “What can Sawnee EMC do to help you prepare for these potential major increase in electricity cost?”
Sawnee EMC spokesman Blake House said many clients have responded asking for more industry news and energy-saving tips.
“[Customers say] ‘Let us know what’s coming so we can be prepared, even if it’s bad news, we want to know what’s coming,’” he said.
“Our customers tell us to ‘keep the energy tips coming, let us know what you suggest we can do to cut our bill at our house.’”
The average monthly bill is about $140, said House.
The cost is only going to increase, he said, noting coal prices have increased substantially in the last several years.
Citing a recent Fulton County Superior Court judicial decision to strike down a proposed coal plant in south Georgia, House said a precedent was set that no new coal plants are likely to be constructed, “unless the technology is created where you don’t have carbon emissions from coal plants.”
With natural gas prices currently hovering below the $4 per gallon line, and without the option of coal, House said the next source of affordable energy, aside from solar, is nuclear power.
“Energy in this nation is at a crossroads,” he said. “Something has got to be done.”
“Nuclear power has to be part of the solution. It’s not the solution—there’s no magic bullet, but it has to be part of the solution.”
U.S. Sen. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has long promoted nuclear energy as part of a two-prong solution for the cost of energy.
Isakson recently criticized legislation to cap emissions of greenhouse gases, while calling for the expansion of nuclear energy.
During his Senate speech, Isakson said the solution is “expanding conservation easements for better sequestering of carbon naturally and empowering the nuclear energy business to see to it that the one source of reliable, safe, carbonless energy that we know today… is empowered for the 21st century.”
Finding a balance of energy that’s clean, renewable and affordable has long been a problem, with many arguments for and against just about every proposed solution.
Cumming resident Jill Franklin, who serves as project coordinator for Change of Atmosphere, said nuclear energy is not a viable option.
Change of Atmosphere, is an organization working to build awareness and opportunities for implementing sustainability at all levels of community interaction.
“It’s not really clean, there’s the waste issue to deal with and nuclear waste has a huge shelf life, plus a large contamination factor,” she said. “There are plenty of other option out there: solar, wind, geothermal.”
Since earning her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, Franklin has done field research in sustainable development in Dominica and Peru and has worked as a community organizer with Environment Georgia, as well as several other environmental groups.
Franklin said the focus needs to be on a variety of solutions, not just focusing on solar, or wind.
“It’s definitely going to have to be a combination of everything... even more than that, it’s going to have to be combined with efficiency. The very first thing we need to do is reduce the energy we use now.”
Conservation is one issue all sides appear to agree on, but agreement between leadership doesn’t always translate to action among energy customers.
House said the company recommends customers keep their air conditioning units set at 78 degrees during the summer and 68 degrees during the winter.
“Heating and air for your home is the greatest portion of your bill,” he said. “Every house, everywhere, there is something you can do to cut your power bill. I don’t care who you are or how you live, there is something you can do.”