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Heatwave inspires work to reduce university’s energy demand during critical hours

As university electricity provider Idaho Power saw record demand during a late June heatwave, the company urged customers to reduce their energy usage and lessen the strain on the power grid.

To curtail the university’s load during the 4-9 p.m. time frame, crews from facilities, operations and maintenance, in collaboration with building managers from across campus, placed certain building HVAC systems into their overnight, unoccupied modes earlier than usual.

“As a large user, these steps by the university reduce the risk of reliability issues on our regional electric grid,” said Brian Emtman, university energy manager. “Our efforts resulted in meaningful demand reductions during the late afternoon and evening hours.”

Collaboration was essential to successfully roll out this program and Emtman said he appreciates the support from building managers, the broader campus community and the HVAC technicians working on the building systems. “Mike Sherwood, HVAC systems foreman and his team have done the heavy lifting of implementing the custom HVAC schedules and I’m extremely grateful for their hard work,” he said.

Emtman estimates that a week of moving buildings into their unoccupied mode earlier than normal:

  • Reduced the university’s demand during the 4- 9 p.m. period by up to one megawatt. Removing one megawatt from the grid is the equivalent of shutting off the air conditioners in 250 houses.
  • The times of greatest demand avoidance were between 5-7 p.m., coinciding with when Idaho Power was experiencing peak demand.
  • In addition to reducing demand, the university also reduced consumption. Savings for the week were over 20,000 kilowatt-hours. This savings is similar to what would be achieved if power to the Micron Business and Economics Building had been cut off entirely for those five days.

“Customers such as Boise State are great examples in the community for their willingness to sacrifice time and energy to make a difference,” said Jeff Rigby, key account energy advisor at Idaho Power.