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How much will electricity cost?

The bottom line is “clean energy” will cost more.

That’s the message PowerSouth Energy Cooperative’s corporate communications manager Mark Ingram delivered at Thursday’s Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Ingram said a bill currently before Congress, the American Clean Energy and Security Act requires power companies to curb carbon dioxide emissions, provides “clean energy” jobs, and promotes energy efficiency measures, all of which sounds good.

“But it will add billions of dollars to electric bills,” Ingram said.

The bill states that a certain percentage of any utility’s generation should be from renewable energy. Other similar bills also have been proposed, he said.

“We agree,” Ingram said. “We support a balanced approach, but believe it should be cost effective.”

As currently written, the bill would require 6 percent of all electricity generated to be from renewable energy sources by 2012, and 25 percent of all electricity be from renewable sources by 2025.

While wind and solar-powered energy are options for some of America’s western states, neither one can supply reliable power in the Southeast, Ingram said.

At present, PowerSouth generates 68 percent of its energy from coal, 30 percent from natural gas, less than 3 percent from hydro and less than 1 percent from renewable energy.

While the company can supplement its energy supply with wind and solar energy, “We can’t consider it a baseload generation resource,” Ingram said.

In a survey last year, Ingram said, PowerSouth found that 58 percent of the respondents like the idea of renewable energy resources and felt it should be a part of the generation mix. However, 62 percent of the respondents were not willing to pay more for renewable energy.

If Congress adds a carbon tax of $50 per ton for the use of non-renewable resources, Ingram said it would have a $405 million impact on PowerSouth’s budget. If the bill were written with a $100 per ton tax, the impact would be $810 million.

“PowerSouth cannot absorb that,” Ingram said. “It would be passed on to our distributors.”

“We want clean energy,” Ingram said, “But at what cost, and at whose cost?”

He estimated that the average consumer’s power bill would increase 31.3 percent if Congress approved a $50 per ton carbon tax.

PowerSouth sponsored Thursday’s breakfast, which was attended by approximately 60 Chamber members. Members had an opportunity to speak for one minute about their business if they gave away a door prize. Those business who took advantage of the opportunity included The Quilt Shoppe, Maurice’s, Massey Automotive, the Bass Agency, Three-Notch Chiropractic, and Cooperative Propane.

The next breakfast is set for May 14.