City, utilites unveil public communication plan for energy emergency

  • Published
  • Public awareness campaign asks citizens to conserve, curtail energy use
Mayor Dan Sullivan today unveiled the communication plan designed to inform the public about a potential energy emergency this winter. The plan is a collaborative effort between the Municipality of Anchorage and regional utility organizations. 

The "Energy Watch" campaign focuses on actions citizens can take to reduce their energy use during the winter if and when natural gas delivery pressures drop low enough to warrant concern. A stoplight concept will be utilized to advise customers to reduce their energy consumption by varying degrees: energy condition green represents normal, everyday conservation measures; energy condition yellow represents turning down the thermostat and a reduction in some household activities; and energy condition red represents the same reductions but to a larger degree. (See attachment) 

Utility groups have been exploring solutions to a potential energy emergency for some time. New to this plan is the Municipality of Anchorage's interest in involving local government planning and assistance. Mayor Sullivan said shortly after taking office that being prepared for an energy emergency was a priority for his administration. "It's always better to have a plan and hope you don't have to use it then vice versa." 

"I was concerned about the lack of a comprehensive plan dealing with this issue when we came in, which is why I directed our city manager to get out in front on informing the public about what they can do if and when we end up in an emergency situation," said the mayor. 

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell also supports the city and utilities' plans to inform the public. "I applaud Mayor Sullivan's efforts to promote energy conservation and preparedness as we head into winter," Governor Parnell said. "Because state operations are sizable energy users, my administration will join the municipality's energy conservation efforts." 

Utilities have sufficient volumes of gas under contract from producers to meet the winter's needs; the question is whether it can be delivered at the same rate that customers demand it. As gas fields age, they lose pressure, and therefore available deliverability decreases causing the potential for problems. 

Next steps include rolling out the public awareness campaign via television, print and web mediums; public speaking events; utility bill stuffers; and press releases. In addition, as a test of the "Energy Watch" system, the public will be asked to practice energy use reduction Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009, from 6-8 p.m. in order to gauge how much natural gas can be saved through conservation efforts.

 In addition to the campaign, Municipal Manager George Vakalis and the Emergency Operations Center are planning a table-top exercise among representatives of local utilities in November to practice for a real energy emergency, and develop responses to any unanticipated challenges. 

The following organizations are participating in the "Energy Watch" campaign: 

· Municipal Light & Power
· Chugach Electric Assoc.
· ENSTAR Natural Gas Co.
· Matanuska Electric Assoc.
· Homer Electric Assoc.
· Municipality of Anchorage