Electric usage drops 20 percent

Posted: Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In the face of Juneau's energy crisis, the city is experiencing a shortage of an item not usually associated with a rain forest - clothespins.

Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire
Brian Wallace / Juneau Empire

By Sunday, a person was hard pressed to find a bag of clothespins on the shelf in either of Juneau's two big chain department stores, and nearby space, where wooden clothes-drying racks once stood for sale, were empty.

People are buying anything they can to reduce power usage during the crises, said David Tobias, a True Value Hardware employee. Drying racks were sold out the day after the avalanche, he said.

It will be a week before his store has more clothespins; Tobias sold the last two bags of clothespins Tuesday afternoon.

"She called and had me hold them," he said.

On Tuesday, Frank Guertin, a Juneau resident, visited Western Auto and Marine looking for pulleys to build a double clothesline at home, but the store was out of clothesline. The dryer is off limits in Guertin's home as a result of the five-fold power price increase expected in response to Alaska Electric Light & Power's loss of Snettisham transmission lines.

Jared Worley, an employee at Western Auto and Marine, said people hit the home supply section of his store this weekend looking for anything to build clotheslines rather than put them in the dryer.

AEL&P Generation Engineer Scott Willis said the conservation efforts in the city are working in a two-fold way. People are using less power to begin with and the savings in kilowatts used translates to less diesel used.

Dryers don't account for as much electrical use as water and home heating units because they are generally used fewer hours per week, but every bit of conservation helps overall, he said.

The weekend before an avalanche forced the entire city onto diesel generators, Juneau used 1.90 million kilowatt-hours of electricity. Last weekend the city used 1.54 million kilowatt-hours.

Overall usage has dropped by 20 percent, Willis said. Fuel to produce the weekend load was 58,000 gallons per day, which was 42,000 gallons less per day than originally estimated by AEL&P.

It directly lowers the cost to customers, Willis said.

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