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Electricity use mirrors area growth

One way to measure an area's progress is by its infrastructure. Buildings, roads and utilities are earmarks for how well - or how poorly - a community is moving along.

Despite the dour news emanating from the economy, the Jackson EMC annual report points out some positive notes seen from the perspective of the larger picture.

Jackson EMC keeps the lights on in an eight-county area stretching from metro Atlanta to Gainesville to Athens, including many of the homes and businesses in Gwinnett, Barrow, Jackson and Hall counties.

Jackson EMC President and CEO Randall Pugh's message to members in the report describes the region's growth:

"In just 10 years, the number of meters our cooperative serves has grown from 132,904 to 204,999, a 54-percent increase. There has been dramatic growth in the number of meters served in four counties over the last ten years - Barrow County 94 percent, Jackson County 65 percent, Gwinnett County 56 percent and Hall County 48 percent. ... While growth in other areas of the country has ground to a halt, growth in our service area has slowed, but by no means stopped. And we believe that as the economy turns around, area growth will return to its previous robust rate."

It's not just the number of homes that has grown over the last 10 years. Each of those homes is using more electricity. Homes are bigger, requiring more heating and air conditioning. Families want more lighting, televisions, computers, home theaters and appliances that plug in. Jackson EMC reports that the average home used 1,055 kilowatts per month a decade ago, and today it uses 1,227 kilowatts - a 21 percent jump. That doesn't take into account all the new businesses that have gone online.

With our ever-increasing thirst for power, the electric cooperative figures its demand will come close to doubling in the next 10 years, just as it doubled in the last 10.

To meet this demand, Jackson EMC is looking to diversify its energy sources. Coal, nuclear and natural gas will play their part.

But a part of its energy portfolio comes from renewable sources, such as landfill gas and low-impact hydropower. A cooperative effort with Green Power EMC will soon deliver the first electricity generated in Georgia from poultry litter. Solar and wind generation are also being investigated.

It's easy to take electricity for granted. You flip the switch and the lights come on.

Conservation is a critical part of the energy solution, and that's where you come in. Through online tools, staff-conducted audits and lists you can check yourself, Jackson EMC is providing its members with the ability to monitor energy use and be more efficient. The cooperative offers incentives for solar power and solar water heating and offers guidance on how to conserve.

There's little doubt that the demand for electricity will continue to grow. Jackson EMC seems to have come up with the right recipe and mix of ingredients to meet that demand.

The unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Columns, letters to the editor and cartoons reflect the opinions of the individuals who penned them. It is the policy of the Gwinnett Daily Post to correct all errors of fact. Corrections usually run on Page 4A.