ALBANY, Ga. -- District 2 Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes is unimpressed with his fellow board members' grasp of the concept of Energy Savings Performance Contracting.
Following Assistant County Administrator Mike McCoy's detailed report Monday on the concept being used by a growing number of government entities in the state, Hayes listened as extended debate on the topic offered little in the way of new information.
"Communities either move forward or they die," Hayes said. "(Energy Savings Performance Contracting) is being used by a growing number of governments in the state, and while that does not necessarily mean it's right for us, it's a progressive way of looking at possible savings.
"There are no risks and potentially big rewards, but we're beating ourselves to death trying to find what's bad (with the concept) rather than what's good. Y'all've left me in the deepest fog I can be in."
Essentially, McCoy explained, ESPCs allow organizations to complete energy-saving projects without upfront capital costs. If it implemented the concept, the county -- which would enter the venture jointly with the Dougherty County School Board and the city of Albany if all three agree -- would allow an energy audit that would identify possible improvements that could save energy. The private energy service company, or ESCO, would design and construct the project and arrange for funding.
Cost of the project is paid for through energy savings realized over an agreed upon period of time. The ESCO guarantees that improvements will generate energy-cost savings to meet or exceed annual payments for the project over the term of the contract, which can extend as long as 20 years. If the savings do not materialize, the ESCO pays the difference.
"This concept was developed as a stimulus for the construction industry," McCoy said.
The assistant county administrator further explained that aging buildings and equipment, recurring maintenance problems, budget constraints and too many demands on maintenance staff were among the factors that warrented the use of ESPCs, which originated during the Carter administration and took deeper root under the Reagan administration.
The county has, according to McCoy, received results of two initial audits that indicate energy savings ranging from $3.4 million to $4 million could be realized by the county.
Commissioner Jack Stone was among the skeptical on the commission. "When we replace equipment now," he said, "we're going to find the most energy-efficient products, so why would we pay some other company to do what we're already doing?"
McCoy, who researched the concept at Hayes' request, told the commissioners their questions would best be answered by representatives of an ENSCO.