The Federation of Neighborhoods hosted a forum on Energy Generation and Conservation at Ciné in Athens on Monday, June 12. A panel of six experts on renewable energy and energy conservation in Athens answered questions and discussed ways to conserve energy in the community.
The panel members included Andrew Saunders, an Athens-Clarke County environmental coordinator, Jason Perry, program coordinator at the University of Georgia Office of Sustainability, Jeremy Field, a building science technician at Imery Group, Karl Langenback, from Georgia Power, Shaan Iqbal, a project manager for Southern Company and Montana Busch, founder of Alternative Energy Southeast.
The panel began by answering a wide variety of questions sent to the Federation of Neighbors in the days leading up to the event. The forum discussed the benefits and drawbacks of both renewable energy and energy conservation.
Saunders said working toward policy changes in favor of renewable energy has its drawbacks, as all aspects of the community must be factored into decisions made.
“It’s a lot of just balancing priorities,” Saunders said, “We can set this great goal of reducing water usage by 50%, but we have to keep in mind all the jobs of people and where the government is getting funding before we leap into those decisions.”
The panel members all spoke about ways to reduce energy usage, such as switching to thermostats with automated temperature changes based on the time of day, installing more efficient water heaters and simply checking electricity usage online to look for ways to reduce usage.
Langenback spoke particularly about how the thermostat Georgia Power offers can conserve energy as well as save money, as it reduces usage during the times where energy is the most expensive.
“We have a thermostat that controls literally every air device in your house so you can avoid that window, which is the most expensive window for us to generate and it’s the most expensive rates that we charge,” Langenback said.
Shreya Ganeshan, a junior economics and statistics major and intern with Saunders, said she enjoyed the discussion on demand for energy, but wishes there had been more discussion about both the supply of energy and the impacts emissions have on the community.
“I wish there had been more discourse over the supply side, because it takes a combination of both supply and the demand side and personal consumption to really put negative pressure on rates and do something meaningful in terms of emission and cost reductions in a way that speaks more to the Paris Agreement.”
At the end of the forum Suki Janssen, director of solid waste in Athens-Clarke County and president of the Federation of Neighborhoods, asked for questions from attendees. Many people had questions for Georgia Power Representatives Langenback and Iqbal, most questions concerning the company’s timeline for switching to renewable energy.
Both Iqbal and Langenback said they were not sure of the details, but assured the audience Georgia Power will be making many changes in the years to come.
“I don’t really know the details about your questions,” Langenback said. “I can say though that in ten years Georgia Power will look like a different company than it does today."
Janssen said she encourages everyone who decides to replace their thermostats or other household appliances to take them to the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials rather than throwing them away.
“Please don’t send those old appliances to the landfill,” Janssen said, “CHaRM can take those and recycle them for you which is so much better than throwing them away.”