Energy test in Anchorage results in conservation

In October, UAA participated in a citywide energy conservation test. Mayor Sullivan’s “Energy Watch” campaign was in preparation for potential energy shortages during the winter in Anchorage.

“We hope there won’t be any energy shortages, it is unlikely, utility companies in Anchorage have contracts for all the energy they need this winter,” Sarah Erkmann, Communications Director for the Office of the Mayor, said.

A conference call on Oct. 30 between organizations that participated in the energy watch test analyzed the results of the test. The organizations determined that original estimates of a two to four percent energy reduction would be sufficient.

“The test was designed to see wlightbulbhandhat kind of energy can be saved, now we know that conservation does work,” Erkmann said.

The test was performed in response to near peak usages in energy last winter. A stoplight concept will be utilized to notify the public on energy conservation. Green represents normal conservation measures, yellow means turning down the thermostat and red represents turning the thermostat down even further and reducing some household activities.

The energy watch test coincided with a yellow energy condition. Anchorage averaged a two to four percent energy decrease with spikes of five percent. Homer participated and averaged five to six percent.

“This has never been done before,” Erkmann said. “The city wanted to know how the public would respond in a real situation.”

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Even though the general consensus is that Alaska will not run out of energy, this test was suitable for equipment failures or natural disasters.

Senator Hollis French released an incentive to store energy on Nov. 2. In the bill, French is proposing that companies be given tax credits for investing in energy storage facilities,

“We use less gas in the summer, and need more in the winter,” French said. “Storage makes sense. It’s like cutting an extra cord of wood in the summer to burn in the winter.”

“If we could store natural gas when we have a surplus in the summer, then we could safely get through those peak use winter months. In my mind, it’s not a supply issue; it’s a deliverability issue,” he said.

UAA participated in the energy watch test by reducing heating in six buildings. UAA gets its heat and electricity from the use of natural gas. A natural gas shortage or outage in Southcentral Alaska could be a sufficient disruption to UAA normal activities.

When Juneau experienced an avalanche, energy bills doubled in the city. During that time energy usage decreased by 40 percent in Juneau.

“In a time of need it is clear people will do what it takes,” Erkmann said.