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Energy Cooperative survey results released

By AMANDA LEIDIG

Staff Reporter

In a county-wide survey, distributed by the San Juan County Renewable Energy Cooperative (SJCREC), respondents indicated a desire for education about renewable energy as their first priority, followed by pricing leverage, design support and the generation of renewable energy locally.

SJCREC's is a local organization with the goal of providing economic and environmental benefits to islanders by exploring, developing and maintaining renewable energy resources through establishing a producers' cooperative owned by producers/investors of renewable energy systems.

The survey revealed that renewable energy is less central to islanders thinking than that of affordable housing, county parks and land bank issues.

The results have SJCREC thinking about starting a community-based education group to help answer questions about renewable energy and the ways in which it can be produced locally. According to Sandy Bishop, who helped spearhead the Cooperative, after access to education about renewable energy has been provided the group may re-do its survey.

Aside from the community's desire to learn more about renewable energy, the survey revealed a significant number of residents willing to invest in the resource. Fifty percent of the respondents checked "yes" when asked if they would be "interested in investing in incremental generating capacity in the San Juans, as a member of a renewable energy cooperative." Of those who indicated they would invest in the resource, most were willing to invest less than $1,000.

The survey summary, which was released on Monday, Jan. 22, noted, "the responses would reflect a possible total one-time investment from our survey respondents of $216,000. While our respondents are only a fraction of the overall population, so that greater investments might be anticipated from the broader population, it should be noted that people who were planning to implement specific conservation measures in the future were more inclined to invest than those who had implemented those measures today. Investment intent may include wishful thinking."

The survey also revealed concerns about the affordability of renewable energy. Along with that, concerns about local degradation of the environment and the rejection of solar and wind power in favor of nuclear power were voiced.

The survey also revealed that 46 percent of the respondents needed/wanted more information about OPALCO's green power program before deciding to subscribe. One respondent suggested the organization have a check-off on the bill similar to the Project PAL (assistance for low-income customers).

The survey, which was mailed to 3,690 San Juan County households on the three major islands, had a nine percent response rate. Lopez had the highest number of responses, as 14 percent of those mailed out were returned. Orcas was next with a nine percent response rate, while San Juan had an eight percent response rate. Ninety-six percent of the respondents were year-round residents.

The survey results, in its entirety, can be accessed at www.lopezclt.org. "I'd love for everybody to have access to this and draw their own conclusions," said Bishop.

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