Energy Efficiency for High Economic Benefits

Guest Blog | March 9, 2010 | Press Releases

Atlanta, Ga. — If the six electric membership corporations (EMCs) participating in developing a coal-fired power plant in Washington County turned their efforts to energy efficiency (EE) instead, the result would be a lower cost to consumers and more jobs for Georgians. That is the conclusion of an extensive independent study released today by the Chattanooga-based Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies.

The study, titled Energy Efficiency as an Alternative Strategy for the Power4Georgians’ EMCs, shows that investing in residential, commercial and industrial energy efficiency could pump more than $3 billion into the local economies of the 43 Georgia counties served in whole or in part by the six Power4Georgians EMCs over a 14-year period. The result would be more than 17,000 years of employment – with an average of 1,241 jobs per year – in construction, retail and other service jobs. Unlike jobs that would result from construction of a coal-fired power plant in Washington County, energy efficiency employment would be ongoing and economic benefits would be spread across a wider area and cost less.

“The research is clear that there is an opportunity to reduce demand for electricity in Georgia through energy efficiency,” said David Eichenthal, president and CEO of the Ochs Center. “Our analysis shows that by choosing an efficiency first strategy, the Power4Georgians EMCs could both save energy and create economic opportunity across the suburban Atlanta area from Cherokee and Cobb counties to Butts, Newton and Rockdale counties, and extending to Bibb and Henry counties and west to Washington and Laurens counties.”

According to Dennis Creech, executive director of the Southface Energy Institute which was a peer reviewer of the Ochs’ study, “We have studied energy efficiency extensively, and Southface has been actively involved in designing and implementing EE programs. Our experience confirms the findings of this study: that energy efficiency is one-third to one-half as expensive as new power plants and should be a priority in energy planning and production.”

Energy efficiency savings for residential peak load reduction would cost less than 7 cents a kilowatt hour (kWh) and just 2 cents per kWh for commercial and industrial energy efficiency, compared to an average of 10 cents per kWh for estimates of outdated coal projected for Plant Washington. The report estimates that all homes – old and new – in the 43 counties could be renovated and updated with energy efficiency measures for about half the cost of constructing a $2.2 billion traditional coal plant.

“Energy efficiency is an enormous untapped resource in Georgia,” observed Carl Seville, founding member of the national organization Efficiency First. “With modest effort and cost, we could improve the efficiency of most existing buildings by a minimum of 20-30 percent, permanently reducing their energy bills. This can help cut both peak and continuous electricity demands. The technology exists, it is not very complicated, it cannot be outsourced to another country, or even another state.”

“In these extraordinarily tough economic times, energy efficiency technologies would save customers money by controlling electricity costs on their monthly bills,” concluded Midge Sweet, director of Georgians for Smart Energy (GSE) coalition. “In Power4Georgians’ EMC territories, implementation of the energy efficiency measures outlined in the Ochs Center report would eliminate the need to build Plant Washington or Plant Ben Hill and generate good jobs for Georgians now. That’s an opportunity that can only help the member-owners of electric membership cooperatives.”

Georgians for Smart Energy (GSE) is a coalition of environmental, energy, and public interest organizations from across Georgia working for the smartest energy solutions that deliver economic benefits and protect air, water and land resources. Midge Sweet, director of the GSE coalition, may be reached at (404) 667-4476/cell or (404) 688-5430. For a full list of GSE partners and to view the new Ochs report in full, visit The Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies is a Chattanooga-based non-profit organization that conducts independent data analysis and policy research, including extensive work on assessing economic and financial impact. David Eichenthal, President and CEO of the Ochs Center is a Nonresident Senior Fellow in the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program. He can be reached at (423) 425-5611 or (423) 902-5236, www.ochscenter.orgSouthface Energy Institute is a non-profit organization that for more than 30 years has promoted energy-, water- and resource-efficient work places, homes and communities throughout the Southeast. (404) 872-3549, www.southface.orgSouthern Alliance for Clean Energy is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization working to promote responsible energy choices that solve global warming problems and ensure clean, safe, healthy communities throughout the Southeast. (865) 235-1448),

Among the report’s highlights:

  • Energy efficiency initiatives could provide more than 1.5 million megawatt hours of savings annually at a cost significantly less than electricity that would be generated by Plant Washington, the 850-megawatt coal-fired plant now in permit stages in central Georgia’s Washington County, and Plant Ben Hill being considered in south central Georgia
  • Future energy demand in the Power4Georgians region could be reduced greatly by implementing a utility-led energy efficiency program targeting residential, commercial and industrial buildings.
  • Implementation of these energy efficiency initiatives would have an immediate, significant economic impact – creating the equivalent of $3.1 billion in economic activity and 17,000 years of employment.
  • The economic impact of low-cost, feasible energy efficiency initiatives in the Power4Georgians service area would be spread across all counties served in whole or in part by six EMCs.
  • By comparison, the developers of Plant Washington have stated that, at its peak, construction on the project would yield 1,600 jobs and a total of 3,750 total years of employment. (Once in operation, this coal plant would provide only 128 permanent jobs).
  • Energy efficiency measures studied include duct envelope sealing; R-30 attic and R-13 wall insulation; radiant barriers in attic; and 50% lights swapped with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) that use about 75% less energy and last about ten times longer than traditional incandescent light bulbs.

Energy Efficiency Fact Sheet

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Full Report