Anchorage residents asked to conserve natural gas

Posted: Friday, October 02, 2009

ANCHORAGE - Anchorage and utility officials have announced a campaign to conserve natural gas during peak demand periods.

Customers may be asked to lower thermostats when outdoor temperatures are coldest, the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday.

The gas distribution system nearly reached its limit several times last winter. Utilities said it wasn't a supply problem, but one of keeping the lines pressurized.

"I do not want, under my watch, for half the population of the state to not have heat and not have lights," Mayor Dan Sullivan said. "Two of the last three winters we were in situations for several weeks on end where we were at 10 degrees below zero."

The system introduced this week uses a color-coded advisory:

Green: Normal operation.

Yellow: Residents are urged to set living-area thermostats at 65 degrees; 40 degrees in garages. Lower water heater settings to "warm."

Red: Set thermostats to 60 in living areas and water heater gas valves to "pilot." Use the microwave for cooking.

Sullivan was asked at a press conference whether a red alert would have been issued during last winter's extended cold snap. The mayor said he didn't think so, but Anchorage residents might have been living under a yellow alert.

The written plan states that gas supplies are believed to be sufficient to meet demand this winter and delivery problems are not anticipated. The plan, however, contends it is "prudent to plan for contingencies."

Officials will test the system Oct. 21. To determine how much power is saved, residents will be asked to spend two hours under the terms of code yellow.

Though the city can't force people to adhere to the alerts, executives from Enstar Natural Gas Co. and Chugach Electric Association said most of their customers would be willing to sacrifice. Bradley Evans, Chugach chief executive, said surveys have found that 70-to-80 percent of respondents would be willing to conserve.

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