Energy and water savings is an extremely important element, and our customers already demonstrate the lowest per customer usage of electricity of any urban area in the state. We intend to encourage even more savings, but realize that savings alone cannot meet the electricneeds of a rapidly growing community. Not only is the population growing, but with the ever expanding array of electronics for homes and businesses, the energy demand per customer is also growing.
Renewable sources of energy are also a high priority for us, and we are launching our GRUgreen EnergySM program this month. This option will help us determine if our customers are willing to pay a higher price for electricity produced from renewable resources such as wind, solar and biomass.
Some customers suggested we pursue nuclear energy, as it is the least expensive option and produces no emissions. However, no nuclear plants have been constructed in the past 10 years, and questions remain about the disposal of spent fuel as well as de-commissioning costs.
Coal generation is inexpensive and abundant, but many people are concerned about air emissions. However, coal technology has advanced to such a state that a coal unit much larger than the relatively clean unit that we currently operate at our Deerhaven Generating Station would produce more energy and fewer emissions.
Natural gas is clean, but it is the most expensive of conventional options by far. It also poses questions of reliability, as natural gas cannot be stored locally and therefore is a potentially interruptible fuel supply. Natural gas remains an excellent option for direct uses, such as water heating and cooking, but its cost-efficiency drops dramatically when it is converted to electricity. We will also continue to use natural gas in our units that are the most efficient.
We are convinced that in order to meet our long term energy needs, we will need multiple solutions that include adding additional generating capacity and implementing new energy saving programs to save more energy.