Cheaper Biomass Power in Alabama

John Davis

alpower.gifMore power customers in Alabama soon could be enjoying lower power bills, thanks, in part, to a decision by that state’s public service commission to approve a renewable energy rate decrease.

alpsc.jpgThis story in Birmingham (AL) Press-Register says the decrease will go to customers who support what has been an obscure program to support an Alabama Power Company coal/biomass project in Gadsden with hopes of drawing more attention and more customers to it:

“Hopefully, it will help us rely less on fossil fuels,” said Susan Parker, one of three commission members. “That in turn would lead to better national parker.jpgsecurity, and make us not as dependent on natural gas and other (resources), and helps the environment improve.”

The project in Gadsden mixes coal with a small percentage of switchgrass, usually 5 to 7 percent.

The program allows residential customers to pay for the production of 100 kilowatt-hours of renewable energy each month for $6 — the fee a surcharge on top of the customer’s regular bill. Under changes approved by the PSC on Dec. 4, residential customers will have the option of buying in at $2.25 per 50 kilowatt-hours, starting Jan. 1. Commercial and industrial customers will be included in the program for the first time, and can pay for 100 kwh blocks for $4.50.

The problem has been a lack of knowledge about the program:

“Only one out of 48 knew about program,” said David Bransby, a professor of agronomy and soils at Auburn University and an expert on biopower who conducted focus groups on the program in 2005. “We asked about the advertising flyers. They said ‘We don’t read those. They go into the trash can.'”

Officials believe customers will be less inclined to throw out the idea once they know how much it could save them on their energy bills.

Energy, Miscellaneous