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County aims to conserve
Energy-saving plan will lower consumption

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County government officials have a New Year's resolution to conserve energy in 2009.

The government will kick off a multi-faceted approach to bringing down a power bill that topped $20 million in 2007. The goal is to reduce the county's energy consumption by 10 percent between 2008 and 2013.

Michael Plonowski, director of the county's facilities management division, said he wants to get county staff involved to turn off lights and power down computers when they aren't in use.

He said the county wants to become an Energy Star partner, which is mostly symbolic but will give staffers a nudge to conserve energy the way they saved water during the recent drought.

"There might not be the same sense of urgency the drought had, but people are pretty good about trying to save energy," Plonowski said. "I think there's enough interest now for people to take this on as something that is special to them."

While Plonowski has plans for energy audits to determine if lighting and heating and air units in community centers and police and fire stations are running efficiently, he said the plan doesn't include a lot of exploration of alternative energy.

But the Department of Water Resources is looking into using digester gas - a natural byproduct of sewage treatment - to power its plants.

Two projects, which would convert digester gas to power and use a fats, oil and grease digestion receiving station to produce more digester gas, would cost about $5.5 million, according to a report, but it has an estimated payback period of five to six years.

Some sewage plants across the country are powered by the byproduct, the report said, and it could be a "green" solution to dispose of fats, oils and grease from restaurants while offsetting power costs.