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Californians Will Have to Sweat To Squeeze Summer Power Use

Greg Lucas, Sacramento Bureau Chief

Tuesday, February 27, 2001, 2001 San Francisco Chronicle


It won't be easy for Californians to carry out Gov. Gray Davis' goal of cutting electrical usage by 10 percent this summer.

Silicon Valley companies say it would be hard to conserve even more energy, and retailers claim further energy cutbacks could cause disruptions for their customers.

Imagine going to a mall on toasty summer day to find the escalators shut off to save power and the thermostat set at 80 degrees.

"It's doable as long as people understand their responsibility," said Jim Chace, manager of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s Energy Center in San Francisco.

"If people turn their lights off, get rid of old refrigerators, tune up their air conditioners and use fluorescent light bulbs it would easily add up to a 10 percent reduction," Chace said. "But it's up to the customers."

On Sunday, Davis increased his conservation call from a 7 percent reduction to a 10 percent reduction. Aides say the governor wants a 7 percent cut now and deeper reduction this summer when energy use rises.

A 10-percent reduction in the summer means a cut in California's daily energy consumption of roughly 5,000 to 5,600 megawatt hours -- enough electricity to power 5 million to 5.6 million homes.

"We are still going to have to work very hard this summer to conserve electricity," the Democratic governor said yesterday in Washington, D.C. "I am calling on every Californian to use 10 percent less electricity than they did last summer."

Businesses and other major energy users are key to meeting the 10 percent goal. Some complain that they are already cutting back and that further reductions are not feasible.

Justin Bradley, director of energy programs for the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group, said several of its member companies, including Hewlett- Packard and Oracle, have already created energy conservations strategies.

"Now that we're in a crisis, they're asked to do more and they're doing what they can," Bradley said. "They've taken nonessential load off, and their equipment is nearly as efficient as it can be. The next step is not to work. That's unacceptable to them."

California is already the second most energy-efficient state in the country. It's 49th in per-capita energy usage.

Department stores and supermarkets are already keeping some lights off, turning down the heaters and turning up the air conditioners.

"Ten percent is going to be tough because businesses have already started doing whatever they can to save money," said Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association.

A big saver of energy in department stores is turning off escalators, Dombrowski said, but that can create problems for some people scaling the oversize steps.

Restaurants don't have a lot of energy-saving options. Food safety laws dictate that refrigerators maintain certain temperatures and that food be cooked at certain heat.

The California Restaurant Association is advising its members to reduce the wattage of their bulbs and make sure doors are weather-stripped.

Chace of PG&E said businesses can take numerous steps to cut electric consumption. In many commercial buildings, Chace said, one-third of the lights can be turned off with no real change in office brightness.

He said within the next two months PG&E would make public a program urging commercial and residential customers to "tune up" their air conditioners. Companies can shut down air conditioners at 3 p.m., and it takes two hours for the building temperature to reach 80 degrees. After the 5 p.m. peak, the air conditioners could be turned back on.

Anything that lowers the use of air conditioning would be a tremendous energy saver. The California Energy Commission estimates that almost 30 percent of demand on hot summer days comes is air conditioning -- half residential, half commercial use.

Davis has proposed spending $800 million in various conservation efforts including nearly $100 million to install more demand-responsive systems in commercial buildings.

The systems link a company to the Independent System Operator. If a Stage 2 alert is declared, the company's computers automatically ratchet up the air conditioner and dim the lights by 50 percent. And the Independent System Operator pays the business for the energy it saves. For residential customers there are steps that can be taken immediately: replace incandescent lights with fluorescent bulbs, which use about one fourth the energy.

Buying a new washer or dryer or refrigerator also saves energy, Chace said, particularly if the appliances replaced are more than 10 years old. New refrigerators use two-thirds of the energy of refrigerators made 10 years ago.

The Public Utilities Commission has a program that provides rebates to people who replace energy-guzzling appliances. Hugh Fowler, an energy conservation expert with the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, said Davis' plan is reachable, but not for everyone.

Someone with a 70-year-old leaky Victorian home probably easily could save 10 percent by caulking windows and wrapping pipes. The owner of a newly built home will have a harder time, he said, because that home is probably already snug.

Fowler recommended replacing light bulbs with fluorescents; changing just five frequently used bulbs can save $100 over three years, he said.

For more energy efficiency tips, visit the state's Consumer Energy Center at


As California's energy crisis continues, here is the the cost of energy consumed by common household appliances. Although some may cost only a penny or two an hour, those costs can add up quickly. Dishwasher, Drying unit off, 7 cents per load

Drying unit on, 12 cents per load

Refrigerator 20 cubic feet, top freezer, auto defrost, made in 1987: 35 cents per day

20 cubic feet, top freezer, auto defrost, made in 1993: 25 cents per day

Television Color, 20 inches, 265 watts: 3 cents per hour

Central forced- air heater 5,000 watts: 60 cents per hour

Clothes dryer Electric 1/2 hp motor, 5,000 watts: 4 cents per load

Clothes washer Electric 1/2 hp motor: 4 cents per load

Microwave 1,500 watts: 22 cents per hour

Lightbulb Incandescent, 100 watts: 1 cent per hour

Personal computer and monitor: At low power state, not part of EPA energy-efficient program: 2 cents per hour

Central air conditioning 3 ton: 43 cents per hour

Source: Southern California Edison Chronicle and Associated Press Graphic

Chronicle staff writers Robert Salladay and Zachary Coile contributed to this report. / E-mail Greg Lucas at

2001 San Francisco Chronicle Page A6

-- Swissrose (, February 27, 2001

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