For Immediate Release - January 09, 2005

"Power Saving Hours" Energy Conservation Can Relieve Demand on Electric Grid During Cold Snaps

Massachusetts households would play key role if Power Watch is implemented

The state's Consumer Affairs office is embarking on an educational campaign called Power Saving Hours to make households aware of the simple steps they can take, if called upon, to reduce energy demand during peak usage hours should the regional electric grid operator announce a Power Watch during cold snaps this winter.

Just like a heat wave in the summer, the Independent System Operator of New England ("ISO"), says periods of extreme, sustained cold temperatures or "cold snaps" during the course of the winter could greatly increase the demand for power and production of additional electricity in New England.

During a Power Watch, households in Massachusetts and other New England states would be asked to implement simple energy conservation steps between 4pm and 8pm on the designated day in order to meet a regional 500-megawatt reduction goal.

"These are common sense, simple steps that households should already be taking throughout the winter to counter higher energy costs," said Consumer Affairs Director Beth Lindstrom. "Our state alone represents almost half of the region's energy demand, so we have a real responsibility to take the lead if a Power Watch is called. Our goal is to make conservation an ongoing priority in people's homes, but also to let Massachusetts households know just how important their help will be if we ever approach a time of energy demand reduction," emphasized Lindstrom.

Massachusetts energy officials estimate that if each of the approximately 2.3 million households in the state saved just one-half a kilowatt between 4pm and 8pm during a Power Watch, the total peak demand reduction would be twice the number of megawatts that ISO estimates would be necessary to offset potential energy generation deficiencies for New England as a whole.

The following are examples of conservation actions that Massachusetts and New England homes would be asked to voluntarily implement between 4pm and 8pm if ISO calls for a Power Watch.

  • Refrain from clothes washer/dryer and dishwasher use
  • Turn off unnecessary home electronics and home appliances
  • Turn off lights in unoccupied rooms
  • Turn on outdoor lights after 8pm
  • Turn down thermostat one-to-three degrees

ISO has previously said that the current constraints on gas-fired electric generation in New England could, under the most extreme circumstances, result in intermittent power disruptions in the six state region. ISO monitors the region's power supply on a continuous basis and conferences with state energy regulators weekly to inform them of the latest energy supply and demand data. Before ISO would implement a Power Watch, there are long standing protocols and agreements in place to offset rising energy demand in the face of changing weather conditions, be they extreme heat or cold.

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation will shortly distribute Power Saving Hours posters to cities and towns statewide to further energy conservation and Power Watch awareness. The electronic news media has also been asked to incorporate the Power Saving Hours conservation actions into their newscasts and weather reports should ISO implement a Power Watch this winter.