Energy expected to provide economic development in GeorgiaBy WALTER C. JONES
Morris News Service
ATLANTA — The investment in Georgia pine-pellet factories could triple to $3 billion soon, and the number of jobs in the energy-conservation industry here could double to 14,000, according to a pair of forecasts presented Thursday at the World Energy Engineering Congress.
Since Georgia doesn’t have any oil wells, it’s not commonly considered an energy-producing state. Yet it has the nation’s second-largest collection of biomass in its pine forest which is drawing European utilities to the state.
“I talk to a lot of companies from Europe looking to build pellet plants,” she said.
U.S. utilities don’t use the pellets because they cost more than coal, which is also abundant domestically. But Europe has to ship in coal from overseas, so shipping in pellets from Georgia is comparable and satisfies their carbon-reduction mandates.
“If you work with someone with a gun to their head, it’s easier,” Stuckey said.
She predicted that scientists will devise an alternative to the pellets in five to seven years, but by then researchers will have found cheaper ways to turn pine materials into synthetic petroleum and the profitable chemicals that refining yields.
Another source of energy-related economic development is the conservation industry. Installing more efficient lighting and ventilation systems is a growing field, employing 7,600 pipefitters, roofers, electricians and engineers today, according to Kathy Robb, co-chairwoman of the Georgia chapter of the Energy Services Coalition and the manager of energy services for AGL Resources.
Employment can double, she said, as more state agencies take advantage of a constitutional amendment voters approved last year that allows them to enter into multi-year contracts. The longer agreements are needed so that companies will install energy-saving equipment with no upfront payment from the government as long as they can get compensated by the agencies’ savings realized in the coming years.