U.Va. Meets Energy Reduction Goal in Electric Emergency Test

Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Matt Kelly:

June 17, 2010 — The University of Virginia reduced by 2.96 megawatts the amount of electricity it drew off the power grid during a June 10 drill, exceeding its 2-megawatt goal.

The Demand Response Program, sponsored by Virginia's Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy, was designed as a practice run of energy reduction, so that in case of an "energy emergency" U.Va. will be prepared to reduce its consumption.

An energy emergency could be declared if heavy use of the electric generating and transmission system threatens to cause outages, such as on a very hot summer day when everyone with an air conditioner is using it. 

U.Va.’s electric energy savings were achieved by a combination of conservation and switching over to emergency generators, said Nina Morris, sustainability outreach coordinator at Facilities Management.

“This exercise was to test our response in an energy emergency,” she said. “This was our first attempt and now we know what happens. We know how to get the word out and how we can reduce our use of electricity from the power grid.”

Employees were encouraged to submit energy conservation tips, and LED desk lamps were awarded to about 50 submitters whose names were chosen at random.

The exercise, in which about 70 state agencies participated, including Virginia Tech and George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion universities, was coordinated by Energyconnect, a company that monitors energy usage.

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, would declare an actual state of energy emergency. 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 Demand Response Program was created by a 2007 executive order from then-Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, and later was extended to 2011.

— By Matt Kelly