Energy Adviser: Users can never save too much energy



Why do we hear so much about saving energy? Haven’t we saved enough?

You’re right. We have been successful in reducing our energy use in the Northwest. Through 2008, the region saved slightly less than 4,000 average megawatts, according to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. That’s enough electricity to serve the needs of the state of Idaho and western Montana for a year, with enough left over to serve a city about the size of Vancouver.

“Energy efficiency has met one-half the region’s new demand for electricity since 1980,” said Tom Eckman, who is manager of conservation resources for the council. “As a result, we didn’t have to build eight to 10 new coal or gas-fired generating plants.”

By not having to build costly generating plants, customers of Northwest utilities have seen more stable electricity prices. Plus, they paid $1.8 billion less for electricity, even after figuring in the cost of the conservation programs.

“The average cost of these savings to utilities has been less than two cents per kilowatt-hour,” Eckman said. “Conservation costs only about 20 percent the cost of electricity generated from wind, which is running eight to 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.”

Environmental benefits

Clark Public Utilities customers have done their part in the effort. “In 2009, our customers saved 36.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity,” said Larry Blaufus, senior manager of energy technologies and services for the utility. “That’s enough electricity to power 2,500 Clark County homes for a year.”

Through our regional conservation efforts, we avoided emitting 15 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere – the environmental equivalent of not driving more than 32 million miles, or to the moon and back 128 times.

But, there’s more we can do.

Believe it or not, we can save even more energy in our homes and businesses by continuing what we’ve been doing and implementing new strategies and technologies.

In the past, we’ve weatherized homes, improved the lighting in businesses and improved irrigation pumping and industrial processes. We also installed compact fluorescent light bulbs by the millions.

Long-term vision

Large savings in the future will come from more efficient television sets, high-performance windows, and more efficient clothes washers and water heaters, as well as more efficient commercial buildings and industrial processes, according to Eckman.

“By conserving, we’re able to ‘stretch’ the benefits we receive from the lower-cost power from the Columbia River hydroelectric system and defer building more expensive forms of generation,” Blaufus said. “Clark Public Utilities energy counselors are here to help customers find ways to use less energy. Saving energy helps customers reduce their utility bills and helps the region for the long term.”

The Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities energy counselors, who provide conservation and energy use information to utility customers. Send questions to or to Energy Adviser, in care of Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA. 98668. A panel of local energy efficiency and energy product experts will review your questions. Past topics are available at