University Calls Upon Employees to Cut Power Use on Thursday

June 8, 2010 — The University of Virginia will try to save two megawatts of electricity between 2 and 3 p.m. on Thursday, and is calling on employees to help out.

The Demand Response Program, sponsored by the state Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, is designed to do a practice run of energy reduction, so that in case of an "energy emergency" U.Va. will be prepared to reduce its consumption. Two megawatts represent about 4 percent of U.Va.'s daily maximum demand in the last six months and would power about 140 homes for a year.

An energy emergency could be declared if there is peak load on the electric generating and transmission system, such as a very hot summer day when everyone with an air conditioner is using it.

“For one hour we will ask all students, faculty and staff to participate by turning off non-essential lights, computers and other devices using electricity,” said Nina Morris, sustainability outreach coordinator for Facilities Management. “We will be offering prizes to encourage participation and increase awareness of ways to save energy.”

Contestants are asked to send their energy saving tips to sustainability@virginia.edu and the winners will be selected at random.

An actual state of energy emergency would be declared by PJM Interconnection, a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of wholesale electricity in all or parts of 13 states and the District of Columbia. The last such emergency was declared on Aug. 8, 2007. It lasted nearly 4 1/2 hours and was blamed on extreme temperatures and humidity.

The program was created by a 2007 executive order from then-Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and was extended to 2011. More than 70 other state agencies are participating in the exercise. Other participating schools include Virginia Tech and George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion universities.

— By Matt Kelly