Keeping 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 the signals.

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 significant conservation."

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 problem.

"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."


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