Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Juneau Project

What would you do if you had to cut your energy use by 30% in a matter of days?

The citizens of Juneau, Alaska, had to do exactly that when their cost for electricity went from about 11 cents/kwh to 52 cents/kwh overnight. An avalanche cut off their cheap hydropower and they were forced to switch to expensive (and polluting) diesel.


Here is a chart of their power usage. The pink area is the time in which Juneau citizens were paying the higher rate. The great thing, though, is that they have apparently maintained their lower-energy lifestyle after their hydropower was restored!





What would you do if you knew your electricity bill, which usually runs about $70 per month, was going to increase to $280 this month if you used electricity just like normal? What creative ways could you find to cut your energy usage by 30% in a matter of days? Or by 50%? (Note: The folks at Riot 4 Austerity are going for 90% - and not just in electricity, but in their carbon footprint for food, water, gas and consumer goods too.)

How much comfort and convenience are you willing to trade for money?


Which of the following would you be willing to do?

  • Line dry clothes (even in cold, damp weather?)
  • Wash dishes by hand
  • Turn off A/C completely or turn it up to 80 - 82 degrees
  • Turn off heat completely or turn down to 55 - 60 degrees
  • Cover your windows with plastic and your walls with blankets for emergency insulation
  • Take cold showers or cut your number of hot showers drastically
  • Turn off your fridge - and stash food out in the snow?
  • Wash laundry in cold water
  • Wash laundry by hand
  • Eat cold meals requiring no cooking energy
  • Use a Sun Oven for cooking and baking
  • Not use any sort of electronic entertainment

(Of course, with a longer time horizon, you can make your technology and home more efficient.)
The coming years may see a huge increase in the cost of electricity for all of us - and it's already started increasing for some of us. I guess we may as well figure out how to deal with it now.

How about you readers who have already decreased your electricity bills by 30%? What did you do and what made the biggest difference?

4 comments:

Tara said...

Our electric bill does jump from $70 to $280 (or higher) in one month, and it's all about the air conditioning. We're not cooling the house to excess, either, just enough to be tolerable. We have two window units that run on opposing schedules (bedroom at night, living room during the day) and ceiling fans that run all the time. I already wash all laundry in cold, I already line dry. I do cook, but minimally, we take heated showers, but not every day. We watch some TV in the evening, but again, not every day. Turning off the fridge in Texas in summer = not an option. Not only does it keep the "true" perishables fresh, but it keeps the bread from molding, the veggies from wilting and the fruit from rotting. I just paid a bill this morning for $338. For a 975 square foot house. With new insulation. Not kidding. We suck it up and pay it because we don't know what else to do.

Lewru said...

* Line dry clothes (even in cold, damp weather?)- Already do this but haven't tried in damp weather (I just wait until it's not damp)
* Wash dishes by hand - do pots and pans and big bowls and stuff like that; I'd be fine with hand washing
* Turn off A/C completely or turn it up to 80 - 82 degrees - already do this, 82, baby! (+ fans)
* Turn off heat completely or turn down to 55 - 60 degrees - already do this - 57 last winter.
* Cover your windows with plastic and your walls with blankets for emergency insulation - I'd be happy to do this. We've kept our drapes pulled all summer and it makes a huge difference, although it feels like we live in a bat cave.
* Take cold showers or cut your number of hot showers drastically- this would be hard for me although I'd be happy to shorten them dramatically!
* Turn off your fridge - and stash food out in the snow? Sure. Or use a series of coolers.
* Wash laundry in cold water - already do this.
* Wash laundry by hand - I've done this in the past. It's a huge pain but if you had to, sure.
* Eat cold meals requiring no cooking energy - sure.
* Use a Sun Oven for cooking and baking - this is on the short list!
* Not use any sort of electronic entertainment - yeah, this would be really hard.

I think the biggest difference has been tolerating the heat in the house with very little air conditioning and line drying. Huge impacts. But our electric bill has stayed law this year.

One thing I think about a lot is how to do the most with a rental when I can't actually do expensive upgrades. I look forward to when we can purchase a house that we retrofit and superinsulate.

e4 said...

Funny you should ask. I just did 3 posts about this, with one more on the way... eventually.

http://greenbluebrown.blogspot.com/2008/07/powering-down.html
http://greenbluebrown.blogspot.com/2008/07/powering-down-part-2.html
http://greenbluebrown.blogspot.com/2008/07/powering-down-part-3.html

anajz said...

One thing that helped us with the electricity budget, is that we set it up to pay the same amount every month all year long. Actually we set this up for both gas and the electric bills. It helps us in budgeting. We just recently discovered that one of our neighbors has been without electricity for a couple of weeks now....even when we were having 108degree temps. Minimum wage earners are going to be hit the hardest with the rising cost of fuels.
When we stopped using the central
a/c it helped our usage considerably. We placed window units in the rooms that needed to be cooled and only use them when we occupy those rooms. Other rooms are shut off from the rest of the house.
We use the "solar" dryer, but lately it has been so humid, making it a bit more difficult.
I just received my solar oven and was able to cook one pot of black-eyed peas until the clouds came...which are here to stay for a week it seems. Though I will be having to wait a bit for more solar experiences, I am so very thankful for the cooler temps.
During the winter we close the foyer door and place a towel rolled at the bottom, and then hang a sheer curtain in front of it to keep cooler air from entering in from around our 100 year old door. We have to move and hide it all when company is expected, but we immediately noticed a difference when we began this process last winter. I could actually warm the room with a small electric heater on a thermostat.