U.Va. Seeks to Slash Electric Demand in One-Hour Emergency Drill

The University of Virginia will seek to reduce by 12 megawatts the electricity it draws from the power grid for one hour on Thursday, as part of an effort to be prepared for an “energy emergency.”

From 2 to 3 p.m., the University will reduce electric demand by turning off unnecessary equipment and switching several operations to generators. Sustainability officials are calling it “U.Va. Saves Hour.”

“This program, also known as the Demand Response Program, is designed to help prevent electric grid emergencies during the peak electric demand times in the summer months,” said Nina Morris, sustainability program manager for outreach and engagement for Facilities Management.

This marks the seventh straight summer that U.Va. has participated in the program.

While much of the University’s energy demand comes from operating heating and chilling plants – several will be switched over to generators during the exercise – Morris said University employees can contribute by turning off unneeded office appliances.

“Some items to consider are fans, lights, peripheral monitors, cell phone chargers and printers,” Morris said. “If you’ll be away from your office during that time, please consider powering down your computer and other electronics.”

She also suggested that workers could schedule a 15-minute fitness break or organize a walking team meeting during U.Va. Saves Hour, turning off their office equipment while away from their desks.The Demand Response Program is sponsored by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. It is designed as a practice run, so that in case of an energy emergency, U.Va. will be prepared to reduce its electricity consumption.

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

“Historically, ‘emergency’ has meant loss of power,” said Jesse Warren, Facilities Management’s sustainability program manager for buildings and operations. “However, given the interconnectivity of the electric grid, that definition has been expanded to include a declared emergency in the grid which includes the risk of a loss of power in a section of the grid that may be quite remote from U.Va.”

U.Va.’s participation, along with that of other users, will reduce demand and help avert a blackout. 

“We want people to be more conscious of their energy consumption for that hour,” Warren said.

Morris suggested setting room temperatures as high as 78 degrees; adjusting work schedules to reduce energy use during peak periods; avoiding fast-charging, battery-powered equipment; turning off printers, copiers and other equipment when not in use; using power management settings on all equipment; turning off lights in unoccupied spaces and closing window blinds to reduce solar heat gain in buildings.

While employees are asked to reduce their consumption of electricity at work as much as possible, Morris said the functions of the University would continue.

“There will be no effect on patient care or research,” Warren said.

Media Contact

Matt Kelly

University News Associate Office of University Communications