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Workshop aims to encourage use of renewable energy

February 12, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@heraldmail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — When Wayne Mackey heard that rate caps were going to expire for Pennsylvania's electricity industry on Jan. 1, 2010, he got worried.

It was WGAL's Brian Roche — the keynote speaker for an energy workshop Saturday at Wilson College — who reported the deregulation of the electricity industry in 2007 that energized Mackey.

 "My wife and I looked at each other and said, 'Did you hear what he just said we're going to be on a fixed income by that time, and our rates are going to go up as much as 40 percent,'" said Mackey, a Chambersburg resident.

So, he started to make some changes to offset what he calculated would have been a $2,900 electricity bill in 2010.

"Because we made our house so much more energy efficient and included solar photovoltaic and solar hot water, we saved $2,400 in 2010 — we actually made $2,105.75 in renewable energy credits for a net gain of $4,505.75, instead of having to pay out $2,900 for electricity," Mackey said.

Chris Mayer, of the Fulton Center for Sustainable Living of Wilson College, has held an energy workshop for three years hoping more people will follow Mackey's example.

"I'm hoping from the workshop that more and more people will start using renewable energy such as solar, geothermal," Mayer said.

 In the last five years, the United States has reduced its oil consumption from 20.9 million barrels of oil per day in 2005 to 18.8 million barrels of oil per day in 2009, Roche said.

 "We are trending in the right direction, but we need to do more," he said.

This year's workshop, titled "Energy and You: At Work and at Home," was held at the college's Harry R. Brooks Complex for Science, Mathematics and Technology.

 "Your fossil fuels are a finite resource. The earth is not producing any more coal, oil or gas. So, what's here is what we've got. At some point we're going to use it up," Mayer said. "Most of our electricity is generated by coal-fired plants so energy from coal sources are also going to become less and less. With the rate caps coming off the electric providers in the area, my electrical bill at home jumped nearly $100 this month. So, it's going to hit people in their wallets."

"It gives the public an opportunity to attend workshops on a wide range of issues as it relates to solar energy and other sources of energy. I'm interested in implementing energy savings features in my home and from the standpoint of commercial applications,"  Paul Clemmer said.

 The workshop began in 2009 after Len Lindenmeyer opted to build an energy-efficient home in Penn National and had difficulty finding people who were knowledgeable in the field, according to Mayer.

 Mayer said the workshop has grown from 60 people to about 200 this year.

"It gets bigger and bigger," Mayer said.

About 26 energy/eco-friendly vendors were available to provide information and answer questions.

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