Environmental Protection & Preservation
Nation's Electric Utility Industry Urges Wise Electricity Use During Heat Waves
With much of the nation
preparing for another day of record or near-record temperatures, the
nation's electric utilities are urging homes and businesses to keep cool,
but to use their electricity wisely. To help them, electric companies are
encouraging customers to contact them, or visit their Web sites for more
information, according to Edison Electric Institute (EEI
Simple, no- and low-cost tips for using electricity wisely include:
- Setting the thermostat at 78 degrees or higher when the house is
occupied, and at 85 degrees when vacant (save 1 - 2 percent per degree
raised on cooling costs).
- Keeping the door and vents closed in unused rooms (save up to 3 percent
on cooling costs).
- Washing/drying full loads of clothes and use cold water as often as
possible (save 2 - 4 percent on energy costs).
- Using a microwave oven instead of a regular oven (save up to 90 percent
on cooking costs).
Among the electricity providers calling for greater conservation this
week was PJM Interconnection, the electric grid operator for more than 51
million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia. On Wednesday, PJM
ordered a 5 percent voltage reduction in its Mid-Atlantic region to meet an
extremely high demand for electricity. Electrical equipment generally is
designed to operate at plus or minus 10 percent of normal 120-volt current.
Gulf Power Co., a subsidiary of Southern Company, passed its previous
peak demand of 2,537 megawatts yesterday. The early mark was set on July 10
this year. Also on Wednesday, Appalachian Power Co., a subsidiary of
American Electric Power Co., topped 6,455 megawatts (MW) -- up from its
prior summer peak of 6,395 MW, which was set August 2, 2006.
EEI's Vice President Policy and Public Affairs Bill Brier said that to
meet the country's continually growing demand for electricity, the nation
needs to invest in more power plants, transmission and distribution lines,
and energy efficiency. "Without all three, it won't be enough."
Electric output last year was the second highest yearly total ever.
Looking ahead, the country is expected to set more records for electricity
use this summer and beyond. The population of the U.S. is anticipated to
grow 23 percent between now and 2030. The nation's gross domestic product
is projected to double in that time. And both events lead the federal
government to predict that electricity use will grow by 40 percent over the
"The industry recognizes there is great interest in energy savings and
efficiency, but Americans can do more to lower their electric bills," Brier
said. "We recently surveyed the nation and found that although consumers
are in favor of energy efficiency, less than a third of the public are
already taking steps to reduce their electricity use. For example, only 26
percent are setting their home's air conditioner thermostat at 78 degrees
or higher, and just 27 percent are installing compact fluorescent light
In the longer term, the electric power industry believes that
technology advances will create opportunities for homes and businesses to
use their energy even more efficiently. For example, during peak
electricity demand periods such as this week, two-way communication and
electronic "smart" meters will be able to give customers the option to
delay the start of their large appliances until demand is lower.
"In the meantime," said Brier, "electric utilities will continue to
help their customers to use their electricity more wisely through tips and
advice and a variety of energy-saving services. During the past 15 years,
these efficiency initiatives have enabled the country to save nearly 750
billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) -- enough to power almost 70 million homes for
Brier added that the industry also has created a new Web site, "Get
", for electricity customers.
"The site offers more information and resources on both how to use
electricity more efficiently, and the wide range of issues-from global
climate change, to infrastructure investment, to expanding renewable energy
use-that are facing the nation's electric utility industry today," said
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