EREN Network News
May 9, 2001
News and Events
- Federal Agencies to Cut Power Use in California
- DOE Issues Action Plan for Saving Energy in California
- Californians Reduce Energy Use by Nine Percent in April
- Los Angeles Airport to Make Power from Food Waste
- BPA Plans Wind Farms in Washington and Montana
Energy Facts and Tips
- Canadian Solar Industries Association
About this Newsletter
- Avoiding the Peak: The Lingo of Electricity Loads
News and Events
Federal Agencies to Cut Power Use in California
President Bush announced last week that the federal
government will try to help with the power crisis in California
by reducing energy use in federal facilities located there.
DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham noted that 30 to 35 rolling
blackouts may hit California during the coming summer.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) will take the lead in
the federal effort by reducing its peak electrical load in
California by 10 percent this summer. DOD plans further
reductions next summer to 15 percent below last summer's
peak electrical demand. To accomplish this, DOD will spend
a total of $51 million this year and next, and intends to
leverage that with private funding of $300 million.
DOD expects to reduce its electrical demand by 200 megawatts
by next summer, achieving 150 megawatts of power reduction
through conservation and by installing energy efficiency
improvements. The remaining 50 megawatts will come in
part from two existing natural-gas-fired generators; DOD is
also exploring the possibility of adding new generation from
wind, geothermal, and solar energy sources, as well as from
fuel cells. Altogether, the project should yield energy savings
of $25 million per year.
See the announcement on the White House Web site.
See also the corresponding DOD news briefing.
In addition to his announcement, President Bush released a
memo to all Federal executive departments and agencies,
directing them to take appropriate actions to conserve
energy. See the White House memos.
The President's announcement was well timed, as rolling
blackouts hit California again this week. The California
Independent System Operator (ISO) the operator of the
state's electrical grid said that a combination of record high
temperatures and power plant shutdowns led to the
electricity shortage. See the California ISO Web site.
DOE Issues Action Plan for Saving Energy in California
To support President Bush's directive, DOE has issued an
action plan for federal facilities in California. During electrical
emergencies in California, federal facilities will rapidly reduce
their electricity loads by increasing indoor air temperatures to
78 degrees or by shutting off non-essential equipment and
lighting. The action plan also directs building managers to
pre-cool the buildings during off-peak times, and asks
employees to be diligent in reducing their use of lighting and
As further help in implementing the President's directive,
Secretary Abraham has asked DOE’s Federal Energy
Management Program (FEMP) to work with federal agencies
in California. FEMP will deploy special teams to identify
short-term energy saving opportunities in up to 24 of the
largest energy-consuming federal facilities in California.
FEMP has the charge of saving energy in federal facilities,
and already has a great track record: The federal
government has reduced energy consumption by more than
20 percent between 1985 and 1999, saving taxpayers more
than $19 billion. In the same time period, energy costs for
federal buildings were cut nearly in half. The federal energy
bill for fiscal year 1999 decreased 7.5 percent from the
previous year alone. See the DOE press release.
See also the FEMP Web site on EREN.
DOE has also established an Energy Emergency Task Force
to respond quickly and appropriately to any energy
emergencies that may occur this summer. DOE will work
with the Federal Emergency Management Administration
and other federal, state, and local authorities to identify
where DOE can provide assistance during energy
emergencies. See the DOE press release.
Californians Reduce Energy Use by Nine Percent in April
California Governor Gray Davis was heartened by the news
last week that the state had achieved a 9 percent reduction
in electricity use in April, compared to one year ago. The
news suggested that the state's goal of achieving a 10 percent
cut in electricity use is within reach. See the May 2nd press
release by selecting "Press Releases." on the governor's press room.
California has also set up a new Web site that provides easy
access to its rebates for energy efficiency and demand
reduction. The Web site provides a link to a database of
rebate programs available in California. See the California rebates Web site.
Los Angeles Airport to Make Power from Food Waste
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) announced Monday
that it will start turning its food waste into electricity through a
six-month pilot program. The airport currently ships as much
as 7,800 tons of food waste to landfills each year. Through
the new pilot program, the waste will instead be shipped to
the Hyperion Treatment Plant, run by the Los Angeles
Department of Public Works, where a digester will convert
the waste into methane and carbon dioxide. The methane
will then be piped to a power plant and burned to generate
electricity. See the LAWA press release.
LAX also opened a natural gas fueling facility in late April.
The facility will provide compressed natural gas (CNG) and
liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the vehicles operated by the
Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), including more than
250 CNG vehicles and 55 LNG shuttle buses. See the
LAWA press release.
BPA Plans Wind Farms in Washington and Montana
In the past week, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA)
has announced plans for a two new wind power plants, one
in Washington and one in Montana.
A 150-megawatt wind facility is planned for the Columbia
River Basin, about 15 miles north of Prosser, Washington.
The first turbines could begin producing power in late 2002
at the facility, which will generate enough power to meet the
needs of 36,000 homes. Called the Maiden Wind Farm, the
facility could eventually be expanded to 400 megawatts. See
the BPA press release.
In Montana, BPA is making plans for the first major wind
facility on tribal lands. A 36- to 66-megawatt wind power
generation facility is proposed for the Blackfeet Indian
Reservation in Glacier County, Montana. If built, it could
generate enough power for up to 22,000 homes. BPA is
holding a series of public meetings in May; if the project is
approved, it could start generating power in late 2002. See
the BPA press release.
More wind facilities could also be coming to Minnesota soon,
thanks to a new initiative called "Wind on the Wires." With
sponsorship from the McKnight Foundation and the Energy
Foundation, the new $4.5-million, two-year project will focus
on overcoming transmission system issues for wind
installations in rural Minnesota. According to Paul White,
Midwest Project Manager for enXco, a wind energy
development company, "Wind on the Wires will help by
working to update government rules so that wind power has
fair access to the market." See the Wind on the Wires press release.
Wind energy facilities often have trouble gaining access to
the power transmission systems they need to send their
power to the market, and the rate structures for these
systems are often unfavorable for wind power. To learn
more, see the white paper, "Fair Transmission Access for
Wind," on the American Wind Energy Association Web site.
Canadian Solar Industries Association
This site explains solar energy technologies for heating
water and air and generating electricity. Visitors can browse
product guides for solar water heating, solar pool heating,
and daylighting. The site also has a directory of solar
professionals, as well as news about solar energy in
For this and other recent additions to the EREN Web site.
Energy Facts and Tips
Avoiding the Peak: The Lingo of Electricity Loads
With rolling blackouts again hitting California, now is an
excellent time to examine the special terminology that
applies to saving electricity. Most homeowners mainly
concern themselves with their monthly usage of electricity,
measured in kilowatt-hours after all, this determines their
bill. But electric utilities are more often concerned about their
electrical load that is, the total number of kilowatts or
megawatts being used at any one time. If you turn on all
your lights and appliances for just one hour every day, you
will have a high electrical load for that period, even though
your overall usage for the day might be low. Unfortunately,
almost everyone uses the most electricity during the day or
early evening, causing the demand for electricity to peak
during those hours what's known as the "peak demand."
Unlike most energy sources, such as gasoline or natural
gas, electricity is difficult to store for later use essentially
all the electricity feeding the electrical grid at any time is
generated at the instant that the power is needed. Because
of this instantaneous nature of electricity supply, utilities
trying to meet their peak demand are forced to power up
more expensive generating units, or buy expensive "peak
power" from other companies. If insufficient sources of
power are available, utilities first "shed" some of their load by
cutting off power to certain industries. These industries
generally get cheaper power by agreeing to an "interruptible"
power supply. If such load shedding strategies fail, the only
option may be to reduce loads through brownouts (reduced
voltage) or rolling blackouts intentional blackouts in limited
areas. These actions are necessary to prevent large areas of
the electrical grid from failing.
In addition to such load shedding strategies, utilities can
reduce their peak power loads a number of ways. For
instance, a technology being explored by the New Power
Company uses the Internet to turn up homeowner's
thermostats slightly during peak demand periods, reducing
the electrical demand for air conditioning. The homeowners,
in turn, also gain the ability to control their thermostats via
the Internet. See the New Power press release.
Utilities also try to reduce their peak demand by shifting
some of the electrical load to off-peak times. DOE's call for
federal building managers to pre-cool their buildings during
off-peak times is an example of such "load shifting."
Homeowners can also shift their loads by avoiding the use of
major appliances until late in the evening.
Requests for consumers to shift their loads to off-peak times
are often unsuccessful, since doing so is inconvenient, and
generally doesn't have any impact on their electric bills.
Utilities, however, often pay much more for power during
peak periods than during off-peak periods. To remove this
inequity, and to give consumers a cost incentive, some
utilities are instituting "time-of-day" rates that charge people
less for using power during off-peak periods. Puget Sound
Energy, which serves Washington state, received approval
in April for the largest time-of-day rate plan in the country
setting special rates for 300,000 of its residential customers.
See the Puget Sound Energy press release.
Is this all too much for you? Perhaps you'd rather have your
own source of power, so you don't have to worry so much
about peak electrical demands. Such self-generation what
the power industry calls "distributed generation" can also
help reduce peak power demands. And if you live in
California, you're in luck: The California Energy Commission
(CEC) is now accepting applications on a first-come, first-
served basis for its Solar Energy and Distributed Generation
Grant Program. See the CEC's Consumer Energy Center
CEC's Consumer Energy Center Web site.
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