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Back To The Future Of Electricity

Energy issues will get attention this month as state representatives and senators gather for the opening of the General Assembly in Frankfort. A glossy brochure with a long title (Kentucky’s Energy—Opportunities for our Future—A Comprehensive Energy Strategy) will help guide that attention.

This report, published early last year by the governor’s office, includes ideas gathered at public meetings from a broad spectrum of energy producers, consumers, environmental groups, educators, and businesses.

Three key principles to guide policy development emerged from these discussions. New energy strategies should:

• maintain Kentucky’s low-cost energy

• responsibly develop Kentucky’s energy resources

• preserve Kentucky’s commitment to environmental quality

The report contains statistics, footnotes, graphs, and charts. But the most appealing section consists of 54 recommendations.

The recommendations include ideas about how state government should take a more active role in promoting the use of energy-efficient products and building designs. Readers of this column will remember a discussion of the benefits of compact fluorescent bulbs (February 2004), LED lights (March 2004), and Energy Star appliances (December 2002).

The report notes the need to “strengthen K-12 energy education.” Last November, this column detailed several national award programs for student energy-awareness projects. Kentucky’s electric co-ops have a steady history of providing educational materials and demonstrations to school groups and at civic events.

The report includes references to biodiesel (motor fuels that include ingredients from plants), a subject covered in both August 2003 and January 2004 in this column. The use of methane gas recovered from landfills (September 2003 column) gets a mention, too.

Several of the report’s recommendations deal with predicting and meeting the demand for electricity in the future—a topic covered here in March 2005.

Coal—mining and burning it efficiently and in an environmentally responsible way—gets the largest number of recommendations in the report, 18. Innovations in clean coal technology have been featured in this column six times since March 2003.

Why all this “we already told you” bragging? To make the point that Kentucky’s electric co-ops are committed to providing you with more than safe, reliable, affordable electric power. They are also leading the way into the future, not just with technology, but with information.

Energy efficiency can also make a difference by making a more efficient economy. Consider this statistic from the report: “Since 1973, the U.S. economy has grown by 126 percent, while energy use has increased by only 30 percent.” Getting the most work from each kilowatt of electricity is vital.

How important is low-cost energy? The report says, “Kentucky’s reliable, low-cost energy is a competitive advantage for the state. The existing industrial base of Kentucky relies on low-cost electricity to maintain its regional, national, and international economic competitiveness.”

Looking ahead 20 years, the cost of producing electricity from petroleum or natural gas is expected to be four times more expensive than producing it from coal—and 90 percent of Kentucky’s electricity is generated using coal. The wise use of coal could be the key to maintaining the continued well-being of Kentucky’s industrial sector.

While legislators wrestle with broad strategy and tiny details, energy consumers can help determine policy, too. All you need to do is stay informed, and make responsible energy decisions in your everyday life at home, work, or school.

To get a copy of the Kentucky’s Energy brochure, call the Kentucky Office of Energy Policy at (800) 282-0868, or visit their Web site at www.energy.ky.gov and click on Kentucky Energy Strategy.

To read past columns of The Future of Electricity mentioned above, visit www.kentuckyliving.com
and go to the archives for that month, or type the topic in the Search box.

Next month: Electricity from the ocean

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