CWRU joins electricity-reduction program in effort to prevent widespread outages

Case Western Reserve University has joined a large group of higher education institutions and businesses across the country in a voluntary electricity-reduction program. As part of power grid operator PJM’s Emergency Demand Response program, the university will lower its electricity usage when operators see that demand is becoming too high.

A one-hour test to confirm the university’s potential reduction level will be held Monday from noon to 1 p.m. Members of the university community are asked to reduce demand ahead of the scheduled test time by turning off (or not using) non-essential equipment.

University officials agreed to participate in the voluntary initiative because the effort can help prevent another massive electrical shutdown akin to 2003 incident that swept across the Midwest, Northeast and part of Canada. Subsequent investigations of that blackout showed that system’s struggles to manage demand contributed to the crisis.

To prevent similar developments, power grid operators around the country have launched programs to balance electricity loads. If power demands approach potentially dangerous levels, grid operators may call for a power-reduction event.

In such instances, university officials first will launch campus emergency generators and transfer critical electrical loads to them. The facilities department also will use its central energy-management system to turn off portions of lighting in public areas such as corridors and entrance vestibules. Finally, they also will notify the campus community of the request and ask that individuals turn off non-essential equipment in their offices, classrooms or laboratories. These might include such as lights, printers, copiers or other electronic devices. The university aims to reduce its energy usage by 7,500 kilowatts in each power-reduction event.

The program runs from June 1 to Sept. 30. During this period, grid operators may call for a maximum of 10 events lasting no more than six hours each. In 2008 and 2009, operators called no events were called (with the exception of a one-hour test in 2009); in 2010 and 2011, operators initiated one to four events, depending on utility zone.

The campus community will receive at least two hours’ notice before an electricity-reduction event.

In preparation for the test on Monday, June 25, all members of the Case Western Reserve University community are encouraged to take the following steps:

  • Turn off lights or window air conditioners in unoccupied spaces
  • Turn off desk lamps, or turn on desk lamps and turn off overhead lights
  • Run laptop computers on battery power
  • Unplug all chargers that are not in use (for example: cell phones, laptops, iPads, etc.)
  • Power down computers, copiers and other electronic devices during lunch, and shut off power strips.