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      Albany WG&L embraces natural gas

      Big changes that could affect your next bill from the Albany Water, Gas and Light Commission. Energy costs around the globe are on the rise and Southwest Georgia is no exception. But Albany Water, Gas and Light is hoping some new technology can help save the utility and its customers some money the natural way.

      On Thursday, the Board of the Albany Water, Gas and Light Commission approved spending $7.7 million to begin using natural gas to make some of the electricity it provides to millions of customers.

      "We decided that we could buy some power from one of the cities that has excess at a low price, which means we can buy it a cheaper price and we can sell it to our customers without having to raise the rates," said Lemuel Edwards of WG&L.

      "We don TMt have any natural gas generators at present," said Finance Director John Vansant. "We just have coal, nuclear power, and hydroelectric."

      Water, Gas and Light avoided using natural gas in the past because of the energy source TMs high prices. But advances in drilling have dropped the price of natural gas from $8.00 per cubic foot just a few years ago to around $4.00 per cubic foot today. That TMs roughly the equivalent of getting a gallon of gasoline for 40 cents.

      "They TMve developed new techniques," said Vansant. "It TMs called shale gas, where they can go deeper into shale rock " it TMs full of natural gas."

      Officials with Water, Gas and Light say customers TM bills won TMt actually go down but they won TMt go up as much as they would have if the utility had continued to rely so heavily on coal energy, which is intensely regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. "The EPA and the EPD have really tightened down more and more of the coal-firing plants and they TMre having to be remanufactured in as such so they can reduce the amount of CO2 that TMs being emitted into the atmosphere," said Edwards.

      "We should be able to earn about 9% return on this. What that will do is lower our overall power costs from what they would otherwise have been," said Vansant.

      Another possible advantage of using natural gas is that it TMs considered more environmentally friendly than coal because it releases less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.