Campus decreases consumption to relieve electrical grid, reduce costs

The YSU Facilities department is cautioning everyone to be ready again this summer for some warm conditions in campus buildings.

John Hyden

John Hyden

“We could have some uncomfortable days,” said John Hyden, executive director of Facilities.

To conserve energy in response to significant increases in the demand and cost of electricity, the university shut down the air conditioning and turned down lights in hallways and other areas on several occasions last summer. The same will be true this year, Hyden said.

The reason for the curtailments, which other universities and institutions are also implementing, is a significant reduction in the amount of electricity available regionally and nationally caused in part by a recent spate of power plant closures, said Hyden and Bill Haas, YSU director of Engineering.

That has also resulted in significant increases in the cost of electricity. For example, last year, YSU’s base electricity cost for 8 megawatts of power was $90,000; by 2016, the amount is expected to skyrocket to $1.2 million.

While Hyden said he expects costs to start to tail back downward in years ahead, in the meantime the university must act to try to cut consumption as much as possible, along the way helping to relieve stress on the electrical grid throughout the Northeast and Midwest.

YSU is participating in a program under which the university agrees to cut electrical consumption in half during various high consumption days when the regional grid is in danger of being overloaded. The so-called “demand calls” can occur at any time. On those days – the university usually gets only a five or six hour prior notice – YSU will again shut down air conditioning and fans and reduce lighting.

Last year, YSU did not reduce consumption during a single “demand call” day, and it cost the university $100,000, Hyden said.

“So it’s not like we’re reducing just for the sake of reducing,” he said. “We need to be responsive to these calls. If all of the customers ignore these calls, then the grid is going to crash, and we’ll have widespread blackouts.”

In addition, the university’s electric rates for the upcoming year will be based on readings taken during five, one-hour periods between now and November, most likely during high-consumption days in the summer months, Hyden said. So, when Facilities staff determines that a day over the summer has a high probability of being one of these periods, consumption will be reduced across campus.

Hyden said he is working with other university officials to develop a method to try to give employees and students advance notice of when the energy consumption measures may be put into place.

“I appreciate in advance everyone’s continued understanding and cooperation,” Hyden said.