the lights on:
An ongoing report of local power conditions
Publication Date: Friday Jan 26, 2001
ENERGY: Residents can air power concerns
City sending conservation message
by Marv Snow
The Palo Alto Utilities Department will hold a public meeting
Wednesday to identify concerns about the energy crisis, how it affects
the city and its residents, and respond to questions from its customers.
"All you have to do is turn on the radio, television or read a paper,"
said Mayor Sandy Eakins, referring to the recent rolling blackouts
and PG&E's well-publicized financial problems. "We are not immune.
Our power comes over PG&E lines to the Colorado station.
"A little bit of conservation could save a lot," Eakins said. "I'm
calling for overall conservation."
"Palo Alto is expected to have energy reductions, as is the rest
of California," said Palo Alto Utilities Director John Ulrich. "The
energy shortage became serious last week."
The public meeting will be held in the City Council chambers, 250
Hamilton Ave. at 4 p.m.
In the spirit of conservation during the energy crisis, the city
of Palo Alto is also changing all of its stop signals from incandescent
lamps to Light Emitting Diodes (LED).
On Monday night, the City Council approved spending $681,400 to
replace its 3,646 energy-inefficient lamps to LED lights on its
89 traffic signals. Part of the cost, $224,700, will be paid through
a California Energy Commission grant.
In replacing the lamps with LEDs, which can last up to seven years,
the city will save between 70 percent and 80 percent on energy costs,
a savings of $120,000 a year.
Besides saving on energy, the city will avoid the cost of replacing
the red, green, yellow and pedestrian lamps that have a short life
span--seven months--and the expense of having city employees maintain
Ulrich said approximately 7,400 homes lost power last week during
one blackout period and another 3,400 were dark the next day.
"Fifty-seven percent of Palo Alto customers have experienced one
hour or more in outages," Ulrich reported.
"I am extremely proud of the efforts the people of Palo Alto have
given to this crisis," Ulrich added. "We've been able to monitor
Ulrich said the last time, as far as he could tell, California
suffered such serious power shortages was during World War II.
Although Ulrich said Palo Alto owns enough power sources to supply
its needs, the city has an agreement with the Independent Service
Operator--the agency that controls the state's energy grid--to share
the burden of any energy shortages.
"It's the thing to do," Ulrich said. "It clearly is a statewide
"We have been able to avoid buying spot energy on the market,"
he said. "We're not out of the woods, there are potential problems
and rolling blackouts."