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Waynesville looks at ways to cut energy use

Energy efficiency dominated the agenda at Waynesville’s last town meeting, with the passage of a strategic energy management plan and discussions on how to meet state requirements for contributing to renewable energy sources.

The Town of Waynesville is exploring ways to reduce a fee being passed down to electric customers in 2010. The fee is the result of a state bill passed in 2007 that requires power companies to either produce or contribute to renewable power. The rule applies to Waynesville, one of only a few towns in the state that runs its own power grid.

The fee, which would reach a cap of $10 a year for residential clients until 2011, would be used to subsidize renewable energy project across the state. Commercial and industrial customers might have to shell out as much as $50 and $500 a year, respectively, by 2011 to support renewable energy.

But the fees are not set in stone. If the town reduces its customers’ energy consumption, charges can be brought down.

For a start in its endeavor to reduce energy use, Waynesville is considering handing out or selling compact fluorescent light bulbs to its citizens, subsidizing hot water heater blankets, and possibly installing solar panels at the town recreation center.

Waynesville Mayor Gavin Brown said he hoped to involve citizens personally in conservation efforts rather than having them send out checks anonymously every month.

“You want to be the carrot. You don’t want to use the stick,” Brown said.

If electric customers don’t succeed in conserving enough energy, they will start feeling the impact of that stick. Fees could reach a maximum of $34 a year for residences, $150 a year for commercial clients, and $1,000 for industrial clients by 2015.

Before reaching out to citizens, Waynesville will begin conservation efforts with its own town employees and facilities with the passage of its strategic energy management plan.

The plan states four major goals: utilizing energy and water resources efficiently, educating and engaging town employees in energy conservation, designing and maintaining high performance buildings, and providing reliable, cost-effective and environmentally sound energy and water supply.

The town adopted the plan in part to qualify for federal stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Town of Waynesville hopes to grab a piece of the $12.5 million being offered up to towns in North Carolina with populations of less than 35,000. The money would be used to replace a diesel boiler at the public works building and fund energy efficiency improvements at the wastewater treatment plant.

Other than providing the opportunity to pick up a grant, the energy management plan will provide both environmental and financial benefits to the town.

Waynesville hopes to accomplish these goals by retrofitting town stoplights with energy efficient bulbs and creating a quarterly newsletter to educate employees on energy conservation, among other steps outlined in the plan.

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