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Local Congregations Get Power Wise

Houses of worship in the North Druid Hills-Briarcliff area get help going green and saving energy through a program from Georgia Interfaith Power & Light.

A nonsectarian faith group focused on the environment is helping area congregations save energy, save money and care for the world around them.

Georgia Interfaith Power & Light was founded in 2003 and helps increase energy efficiency in more than 500 congregations statewide. GIPL, pronounced “gipple,” also trains congregants in how to save energy in their homes, and it participates in plant sales, recycling events, screenings of environmentally-focused documentaries and summits about pertinent topics.

GIPL’s Power Wise program provides energy audits, analyses, reports and efficiency plans customized to fit each congregation’s needs. The program can also provide matching grants of up to $25,000 per project.

This increased ability to give financially is because of a $400,000 grant from the 2009 federal stimulus program and a $200,000 match from the state Kendeda Fund.

GIPL executive director Alexis Chase has a goal: help all 15,000 of Georgia’s houses of worship.

“Every congregation we have worked with is spending too much on energy. That’s money that could be spent to feed the hungry, house the homeless and advance their mission,” Chase said.

Power Wise is unique because it offers so much to congregations seeking help going green.

“No other organization in the country is offering congregations of every faith a detailed road map to systematically reduce their energy use,” Chase said.

Many area congregations have made or are making use of Power Wise funding.

At n, the GIPL grant of $2,778 was awarded in May. It will be used to upgrade furnaces to Energy Star and replace old fluorescent light fixtures, according to church treasurer John Ritter.

got $6,037 in November 2010 after going through an energy audit and picking nine measures that would have positive effects on the church’s efficiency. Four of them have already been implemented: using an annual contract for gas, changing thermostat settings, switching electric rates and reducing the amount of security lighting. The GIPL grant helped retrofit fluorescent light fixtures with efficient bulbs for an estimated energy savings of 10,995 kilowatts per hour or $1,424 a year, according to Power Wise program director Bob Donaghue.

was awarded $8,432 in grants last year to help install roofline insulation, more efficient CFL lights, LED exit signs in the buildings and programmable thermostats.

is undergoing a major HVAC system renovation. The school used its GIPL matching grant of $5,250 awarded in June 2010 to upgrade their boiler, according to operations director David Claussen. This will help with increased efficiency and reduced utility costs.

Two area congregations have also been recognized with awards for their green stewardship.

won the 2006 GIPPY Award for Congregation of the Year, which recognizes overall excellence. , which shares space with and a Korean-Christian congregation, won the 2006 GIPPY Light Award, spotlighting excellence in worship and education related to the environment.

“We are not an environmental group. We are a nonsectarian faith organization that helps all communities of faith be responsible stewards of our shared natural resources,” Chase said about the aim of GIPL.

The idea for Interfaith Power & Light began in California and now has a presence in 38 states.

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