Bush Directs Federal Agencies in California to Slash Energy Use

WASHINGTON, DC, May 3, 2001 (ENS) - All federal agencies in California must now reduce their peak hour electricity use, President George W. Bush announced today in a press conference at the White House. As the hot weather approaches and people turn on their air conditioners, the energy starved state is bracing for more of the rolling blackouts that have been imposed from time to time since last year.

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President George W. Bush (Photo courtesy the White House)
President Bush said, "This administration is deeply concerned about California and its citizens. We're worried about blackouts that may occur this summer. And we want to be a part of any solutions."

The first federal agency to come forward with a detailed energy plan is the Department of Defense. "The Secretary of Defense, after a careful review, believes that this Department, which has got a large presence in the state of California, can reduce peak hour usage by 10 percent - and can do so without harming military readiness," the President said.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that the Armed Services have developed plans that will decrease their peak power demand from the California commercial electricity grid by a combination of energy conservation, energy efficiency investments and power generation.

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Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (Photo courtesy Office of the Secretary)
"The situation in California and the surrounding states demands the full attention of all electricity consumers, public and private," said Rumsfeld. "Although the Department represents only one percent of California's peak load, as one of its largest consumers of electricity, we intend to do our part to mitigate the electricity shortage."

The initiative aims to reduce the amount of electricity the Services draw from the commercial power grid by 10 percent on average, by summer 2001. By summer 2002, the Services aim to reduce the power they draw by an average of 15 percent from the July 2000 baseline.

This initiative will make more than 200 megawatts of additional power available to other customers in the western power grid.

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Officer works at his desk at the Fleet Aviation Specialized Operational Training Group, Pacific Fleet at Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California (Photo courtesy U.S. Navy)
To achieve these goals, the Department will redirect $32 million in fiscal year 2001 to implement the Services' demand reduction and power generation plans, and for investments such as lighting upgrades, updated controls, improvements to heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and installation of demand meters. An additional $19 million will be added to the fiscal 2002 budget to achieve the initiative's long term goals.

Non-fossil fuel generation plays an important role in the Services' plans, including new investments in wind power, fuel cells and solar photovoltaic arrays.

"One of the more innovative concepts involves buying power from the owner of an existing wind generation plant located adjacent to a military base who has been unable to sell power to the commercial grid economically because of high transmission and distribution charges," said Ray DuBois, deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment.

President Bush said the federal government will make its power generating facilities available if requested. "Should Governor [Gray] Davis, or any other governor for that matter, request power generating units owned by the federal government, they'll be available to help in the case of an emergency."

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Delta rocket blasts off from Vandenburg Air Force Base in California (Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force)
The Federal Emergency Management Agency is developing plans to help states that do face blackouts, to make sure the citizenry does not get harmed in any way, Bush said.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham is travelling to California today to work with Governor Davis and the heads of federal agencies on energy supply and conservation. "We consider this to be a top priority of the Department, so we're going to be maintaining close vigilance on those efforts and the agencies in California will be reporting back to me in 30 days on the measures they're taking to help make sure we achieve our objectives," Abraham said in Washington.

President Bush said that the energy usage in the White House is also under review by Chief of Staff Andrew Card. "Since I've asked other agencies to review their policy, I'm going to ask the White House to do the same. We want to be good, efficient users of energy here in the White House," Bush said.

California Governor Davis today announced that California's overall energy use dropped by nine percent in April compared to one year ago.

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California Governor Gray Davis (Photo courtesy Office of the Governor)
California residents and businesses reduced their electricity demand by 2,866 megawatts compared to last year, according to California Energy Commission figures, which include adjustments for weather and economic growth. One megawatt is enough energy to power 1,000 typical homes.

"These figures indicate that Californians can not only meet our goal of reducing power consumption by 10 percent, we can probably do even better this summer," said Governor Davis. "While we are already among the most electricity efficient states in the nation, second only to Rhode Island, we need to conserve every megawatt for the tough summer months ahead."

Recently approved California legislation provides more than $800 million for energy conservation and distributed generation programs.

In addition to rebates for energy efficient household appliances, money is available to install high-efficiency lighting in businesses, to improve heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment, and to install time-of-use meters. Low interest loans are available to help cities, counties, local governments, schools and hospitals complete energy saving projects.

President Bush has assembled a team of administration officials to develop a comprehensive energy plan that will work to increase supplies, as well as encourage conservation.

Vice President Dick Cheney, a former oil company executive who heads the energy team, said earlier this week that the country cannot rely on conservation and renewable energy to feed its energy needs.

"What the Vice President and I understand," Bush said today, "is that you cannot conserve your way to energy independence. We can do a better job in conservation, but we darn sure have to do a better job of finding more supply. It is naive for the American people and its - and those who purport to speak for the American people, some of those - to say that we can be okay from an energy perspective by only focusing on conservation. We've got to find additional supplies of energy."