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Modest aims for new state energy plan

Report outlines ways to renew resources

Once again, Georgia is trying to figure out how to catch up. This time, the challenge centers on something other states did years ago — a plan on how to renew energy and use it efficiently. It's a lofty task in a state that's notorious for gutting environmental efforts.

The recently completed 160-page draft of the State Energy Strategy, spearheaded by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority, outlines dozens of ways to help cut energy costs. An advisory council will finalize the plan and submit it to the governor in December. The report could include suggestions for proposed legislation.

"We want [the plan] to be a road map characterized by affordable, reliable and environmentally responsible energy," says Elizabeth Robertson, director of energy resources at GEFA.

However, the plan skirts around the issue of global warming, and that could be because it's difficult to get anything aggressive adopted in the home state of electricity giant Southern Co., the country's second-largest emitter of carbon dioxide (a top contributor to global warming).

"Georgia hasn't dealt with global warming," says Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "They need to take a serious look at what they can do to combat it."

Another concern lies in the makeup of the 18-member advisory council, which is headed by a retired Georgia Pacific president and includes vice presidents from Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light.

"Are the governor and these politicians committed to making the state an energy leader?" Smith asks. "Or are they largely beholden to the special-interest groups that have large financial stakes?"

The plan's proposals include:

• Increase the in-state production of biofuel produced from Georgia pine and require state agencies to purchase a certain amount each year.

• Tax incentives for energy-efficient homes and hybrid cars.

• Incentives for developers who build energy-saving "green" buildings, such as the College of Management building on Georgia Tech's campus and the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center.

Dennis Creech, executive director of sustainability advocacy group Southface, calls the effort a good start. "It's going to be up to the public to keep the pressure on elected officials to make this succeed," he says.

Through Oct. 3, people can propose suggestions to GEFA online and at public hearings. So far, more than 1,000 comments have been submitted.

GET INVOLVED

· For more information, or to submit comments online, visit www.georgiaenergyplan.org. Comments will be accepted through 8 p.m. Tues., Oct. 3.



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