Juneau officials looking to save on energy bill

Posted: Sunday, April 20, 2008

Throughout city offices, lights and computers are being turned off and thermostats lowered in response to skyrocketing electricity prices that city officials expect will add at least $2.5 million to its annual $880,000 energy bill.

Four days into Juneau's energy crises, not much else has changed in city operations. To do more will take some level of coordination with various city offices and departments such as Public Works and the Juneau International Airport.

City Manager Rod Swope hosted a roundtable brainstorm session Friday with various department heads to find ways the city can do more. He closed the session asking for serious cost-saving suggestions and the possible effects on the public by Wednesday.

"Start thinking about it," Swope said.

At the airport, the city's second largest user of electricity, runway lights are off except when planes are nearby. The Juneau School District switched boilers over to oil and set thermostats at 55 degrees when students are not in the buildings.

One electricity-saving idea floated closed library branches in the Mendenhall Valley and downtown one day a week during off-peak days. Another closed the Augustus Brown Swimming Pool one day a week and earlier on weeknights.

Mayor Bruce Botelho said the energy disaster was an opportunity for the city to learn about its energy use and learn ways to reduce use permanently.

"It's an opportunity to change the way we do business overall," he said.

Swope can't put a number on the energy savings he's calling for from various city departments and enterprise funds. It's too soon, he said.

Solving the $2.5 million problem won't be easy, and reducing electrical use cannot offset the total cost, Swope said.

"But we've got some ideas of how we're going to chip away at it," he said.

• Contact reporter Greg Skinnerat 523-2258 or e-mail greg.skinner@juneauempire.com.

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