By Rhonda McBride
Channel 2 News
3:07 PM AKDT, September 19, 2011
South Central Alaskans: mark October 19 on your calendar. That's when another test of the regional "Energy Watch" system will take place. On this day, gas and electric customers will be asked to turn down their thermostats and conserve energy from 6-8 p.m. to prepare for possible emergency gas shortages this winter.
Two regional mayors joined Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan at City Hall Monday for the kick-off of the third-annual "Energy Watch" campaign -- Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dave Carey and Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss.
Their message: saving a little, helps a lot. The mayors warned that Southcentral could still face a critical shortage of Cook Inlet gas this winter, despite new exploration in Cook Inlet and Enstar's efforts to bring a gas storage facility on line next year.
"This year could be our most critical year, "said Mayor Dave Carey. "So it's critical to cut down our gas consumption and prove that conservation can get us through a low spell in the gas supply."
Mayor Dan Sullivan says the city has seen about a three to five percent drop in energy use during previous tests. He says he would be happy to achieve the same results during testing this year, or exceed it slightly.
"When you can save three to five percent of the load, you could make a difference," said Sullivan, who says there's still a danger of gas delivery pressures falling low enough to cause a crisis.
Mat-Su Mayor Larry DeVilbiss says the Energy Watch campaign is another tool to help consumers realize that conservation works. He says, despite a growing population, MEA customers have reduced power consumption over the last few years -- and the credit goes to increased public awareness.
The Energy Watch program uses a stoplight concept. Green is for normal usage, yellow calls for turning down the thermostat and curtailing some activities and red calls for more of the same cutbacks made during code yellow.
Should gas levels move out the green zone, a widespread public awareness campaign will go into effect asking utility customers to conserve.
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