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Living the Christian Life – November 2011

November 18th, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Environmental Stewardship and Church Energy Policy

Our state’s demand for energy is expected to rise, and rise faster than the nation as a whole, over the coming years. Given our state’s ongoing need for greater and greater energy resources, clean energy sources such as wind, solar and biomass can help us meet our future energy needs. But whether we are quick or slow to diversify with clean energy options, the cost of energy will continue to rise.

The Christian Life Commission has been paying extra attention to the rising energy costs for churches.  El Paso churches faced a recent very steep spike in energy costs; the cost increase that was planned hit churches disproportionately to the rise other businesses and residential rates. Churches organized to work with the local energy provider and city officials to compromise and put a ceiling on the rate increase. Austin Energy is currently going through the rate increase process, where many houses of worship could see their bills increase in excess of 80%. If your utility provider is going through a rate case, please let the Christian Life Commission know. We can be of assistance in determining what the effect will be on your church’s electric bill and how to try to mitigate against egregious increases.

Many private sector businesses are preparing for these cost increases by making their facilities more energy efficient in part financed by tax rebates and tax offsets. Public sector buildings, like schools and courthouses, have the opportunity to take advantage of similar energy efficiency measures with funds set aside by the State of Texas. Churches and other nonprofits cannot take advantage of tax incentives, nor are they eligible for public facility funding. This means that churches have been facing the same inevitable energy cost increases but without any help or subsidy to offset initial costs.

A greater and greater portion of a church budget is consumed by rising energy costs. Every dollar spent on the increase in a church’s electricity bill is a dollar that could be spent on ministries. By saving energy we save water, reduce pollution including mercury, protect public health, act as good stewards, and we can spend tithes and offerings on ministry rather than electric bills.

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