December 14, 2001

Sunny energy picture is forecast

Superintendent Louis Ruiz in
spects the massive cascades of water beneath the cooling system of the campus cogeneration plant.

Neil Michel/Axiom photo

By Lisa Lapin

The outlook for keeping the lights on at UC Davis this winter looks extremely good, thanks to aggressive energy conservation efforts and a power deal struck more than a decade ago.

UC Davis is immune from the potential problems facing other UC campuses, which are dependent on power from the bankrupt Enron Corp. and face some uncertainty about their future power supplies. Instead, UC Davis gets the majority of its power through the Western Area Power Authority (WAPA.)

"WAPA has proven to be a very reliable provider of power, and the other benefit is that WAPA power is much cheaper," said Charles Kennedy, assistant director of Facilities Services and the person responsible for procuring university power.

Kennedy said that UC Davis in fact gets about 65 percent of its daily power needs met through WAPA, and about 35 percent from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The campus also has the ability to augment the PG&E energy supplies by activating an on-campus co-generation plant.

When fully operational, the co-generation plant can turn natural gas into 3.7 megawatts of electricity. The average campus electricity demand is 25 megawatts per day, with peak use in the coldest winter months and warmest summer months at about 37 megawatts.

Conservation efforts implemented last winter and spring are also helping the campus meet its energy needs and keep costs down.

"The campus is continuing to demonstrate good efforts," Kennedy said. "Office lights and office equipment are not being left on. We have reduced electrical load where we can with de-lamping in buildings and reduced outside lighting where it does not compromise safety."

Kennedy said that the conservation savings have been large enough to bring a number of new buildings into the campus power grid in recent months without significantly increasing overall campus energy demand.

"We have added a lot of square footage with only a marginal difference in load," he said.

All campus units are being urged to continue their conservation efforts, particularly in the light of predicted tight budgets for the campus.

Although UC Davis did not face the astronomical energy bills that have hit some of the other UC campuses, energy costs did double in 2000-2001 and UC Davis had a $10 million deficit.

The UC Office of the President is currently negotiating with the state to seek reimbursement for the campuses. Gov. Gray Davis had initially allocated $75 million to the university to help cover rising energy costs for all 10 campuses. However, in a budget action in November, the governor rescinded $25 million from that allocation. It is not yet known how much money UC Davis will receive.

Kennedy was positive about the outlook for power availability throughout the winter, and did not predict that UC Davis would face rolling blackouts or energy cutbacks. PG&E continues to consider UC Davis as an essential customer that would not be subject to rotating outages.

"The energy market has stabilized, and gas markets are stable," Kennedy said. "Natural gas suppliers stocked up over the summer months, and have enough to get California through the winter."

For more information about the ways UC Davis has been dealing with the energy crisis this year, see

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Dateline UC Davis is the faculty and staff newspaper for the University of California, Davis.