Carbon County is hoping to cut down on its electric bill in 2010.

The move to save thousands is due to deregulation and electric rate hikes that will take effect come Jan. 1.

On Thursday, the board of commissioners voted to authorize Jason Ulshafer of Green Poine Energy of Allentown the company the county hired earlier this month to complete an energy management assessment of all county-owned buildings to execute a contract with World Energy Solutions Inc. on behalf of Carbon County for the procurement of electrical power at the best price available before Dec. 31. The board also voted to authorize the release of customer demand and consumption history and exchange an agreement with World Energy Solutions for the procurement of electrical power.

The cost for Green Pointe's services is $15,000.

Commissioner William O'Gurek, chairman, said since the county hired Green Pointe, the consultant has been auditing all of the county's PPL electric costs.

He added that the audit includes a review of electric bills for all county-owned properties over the past 12 months. This review is helping officials determine what the annual electric consumption is and what the county needs to perform without electric interruption.

Currently, Carbon County pays $700,000 annually for electricity. Of that total, more than 50 percent of the county's electricity is consumed by Weatherwood, the county nursing and rehabilitation center, O'Gurek said.

"Based on a preliminary review of our consumption," O'Gurek said, "the consultant is suggesting we could generate a savings anywhere from 10-20 percent."

That means that Carbon County could potentially save anywhere between $70,000 and $140,000 or more on next year's electric bills. If the county did nothing, next year's bill could jump to nearly $1 million.

After all information is analyzed, county officials plan to hold an online auction to hopefully purchase a lower electric rate. Electric providers will be notified of the auction, which is slated for sometime between Christmas and Jan. 1, and will have the opportunity to place a bid to provide the county with its electricity.

O'Gurek said the providers will be bidding on a contract to provide Carbon County with 5 million kilowatt hours, based on what projections show the county uses annually.

Carbon officials have also looked at utilizing other resources to provide its buildings with energy and further reduce its electric bill and carbon footprint.

O'Gurek said the board is discussing the possibility of installing solar panels on some of the buildings that get a lot of sunlight.

He mentioned the county correctional facility, which is located on the Broad Mountain in Nesquehoning. It has an unobstructed roof that gets hours of direct sunlight.

"It has been theorized that we may be able to generate sufficient energy on our buildings in downtown Jim Thorpe to provide what is needed for the courthouse, annex and Susquehanna Street building," O'Gurek added. "We will also take a look at Weatherwood and Mauch Chunk Lake Park, particularly the Environmental Education building where the county plans to replace the roof, such as ballasts, types of bulbing, etc."