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Conserving electricity may prevent outages, save cash

July 29, 2005

Electric power use topped its predicted summer peak on Tuesday in the Mid-Atlantic states, leading to a call for power conservation from the company that operates the regional power grid. We urge customers who can to conserve power as much as possible.

PJM Interconnection LLC put out the call for conservation Wednesday, after experiencing a peak load of 135,000 megawatts.

That was 3,700 megawatts higher than projected and within 18 percent of the member utilities' maximum generating capacity.

According to the Charleston, W.Va. bureau of The Associated Press, PJM wants to keep a 15 percent reserve in case of unexpectedly high demand or equipment problems.

PJM officials said that without conservation, the region, which includes 13 states from Illinois to North Carolina, could experience power supply problems.

What can you do? PJM suggests keeping curtains and blinds shut to keep cooler air inside your home and not using major appliances such as stoves, dishwashers and dryers until the sun goes down.

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Finally, increasing the thermostat setting on your air conditioner would also help. For some people with health problems, this would be difficult, but most citizens should not find it impossible.

If that seems like a big sacrifice, consider what might happen if there were an interruption in the power supply. Instead of having an air conditioner that's not cooling as much as you would like, you could have one without any power at all.

Because the Edison Electric Institute announced this week that the nation's electric companies are running their plants "full bore" to keep up with demand, power prices aren't likely to drop anytime in the near future.

For the consumer, than means that conservation will not just be a matter of easing the stress on the power grid, but of saving money in the household budget as well.

To do that, consider checking how energy efficient appliances are when it's time to replace old ones and looking at new ways to conserve power.

The California Energy Commission notes that one of the biggest energy users is the spare refrigerator many people keep in a basement or garage with only a few items in it. Unplug it, secure the door, and you'll save $150 a year, the group said.

For a list of other power-saving tips, visit the commission's Web site at www.consumenergycenter. org.

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