Energy Curtailment

Why?

The extra heat and humidity means extra stress on campus systems and in order to make sure everything that needs power and/or cooling gets it, UNMC asks that you reduce power and cooling to things that don’t.

By not using this energy we not only ensure that all systems on campus are working, we also help to improve air quality in Omaha and the surrounding area, conserve natural resources, help OPPD to provide services to the entire community, and save money.

What?

When we enter into curtailment mode we lock out all thermostats at 76 degrees.  This allows the system to keep all the spaces at a tolerable and efficient temperature.  We also eliminate the ability to heat in any space.  While this seems like a no-brainer you would be surprised how many areas use both heating and cooling simultaneously to keep a space comfortable and at the correct air pressure.  This elimination of the heating source during curtailment allows us to use less cooling energy to offset the simultaneous heating—saving on both heating and cooling.  This means there may actually be some spaces on campus that are almost cold during these times but that is the most energy efficient way to operate those particular spaces.  UNMC contains so many different types of systems that it is tough to truly categorize and explain what operational strategy is most efficient for each space, but Facilities looks at each type of system individually and make those decisions.

Who does this affect?

The entire campus is being asked to help out, however all patient, lab, and animal areas are exempt from these changes.  While these spaces are actually our most energy intensive spaces, for now they will remain unaffected.  Any other spaces are subject to curtailment.

What can I do to help?

To help ease the cooling load, employees can:

  • Close shades, blinds, and curtains whenever possible to reduce solar heat gain
  • Lower lighting levels where possible, turn off lights in unoccupied areas, and when leaving a room
  • Turn off and unplug all electrical equipment not in use (computers, coffee makers, printers, chargers, etc.), especially in offices
  • Shut fume hood sashes when not in use
  • Open doors manually instead of using the ADA buttons

Many have asked, “If we’re saving energy, why is my office so dang cold?  Aren’t we wasting energy by keeping spaces cold when it’s so hot?” That’s true of your home, where the system adds cool air and then turns off, waits for the temp to rise, and then adds cooling again.

However, patient care and research spaces require a constant rate of air flow. In buildings with these activities, we combine both heated and chilled air, regulating temperature the way we adjust the water in a shower – adding both hot and cold to create a comfortable temperature. During curtailment, we decrease the amount of heated air we produce, because creating heat when it’s already hot it is a waste of energy.  This means some spaces will feel cold.

We also save energy by “pre-cooling.”  Spaces are cooled just a little bit extra before it gets too hot and the sun is beating down, which makes it easier for the system to keep up, once the heat and humidity are in full effect.

Buildings without research or patient care may feel warmer than usual, as less energy will be used to cool them. Please call 2-3347 (Nebraska Medicine) or 9-4050 (UNMC) to report spaces colder than 66 degrees or warmer than 75 degrees.

Why put ourselves through this?  Lower energy use means better air quality, which means a healthier community, and better health is our mission.

Our utility rates are based on our peak use.  The maximum of energy we use at a given time determines the rate we pay for the entire next year.  We want to keep that peak as low as possible.

We need your help!  When the outside temperature becomes unbearable, we’ll ask people to turn their lights off where ambient light is adequate, unplug electrical devices not in use, and to close their window blinds to keep the sun out.  These easy steps combine to have a huge impact, on the hot days and for the year ahead.

So, counterintuitive as it seems, when the mercury climbs this summer, be prepared – dress in work-appropriate layers.  Stow a sweater, a pair of closed-toe shoes and some socks in a desk drawer.  Help improve community health by turning your lights off and closing your window blinds.

If improving health, reducing pollution, and saving money aren’t enough incentives, maybe pie-ing one of your favorite campus leaders will be?  Read on:

TRACK PROGRESS

If you are interested in knowing how much energy the campus is using at any given time or what any specific building is using you can check out the new Med Center Energy page: Campus Metabolism.

The front page will announce the curtailment status and show you the trend of energy use for the day.  The red line on the graph is at 23,000kW, which is our peak goal…we want to stay below that line.

If we are in curtailment, you’ll notice an image of a meter demonstrating the importance of our actions, as well a link to a 30 second survey.  This survey can be taken each curtailment day to tell us what you have done to help with curtailment…and to have the opportunity to throw a pie at a campus leader.

To see specific building or historical information, to compare buildings, or geek out on terms like a “ton of refrigeration”, check out the links on the bottom of the webpage.

REWARD

For each day we are in curtailment, any UNMC or Nebraska Medicine student, staff, or faculty member can visit the Campus Metabolism page to track progress and take a 30-second survey.  In the survey, you can tell us what action(s) you have taken to conserve energy that day.  You will also have the opportunity to select a campus leader that you think should have a pie tossed at them, and you can submit your name to be the pie thrower!  This survey can be taken once a day; every time you take the survey you increase your odds of being a pie thrower.

Each Energy Curtailment Day the campus will have the opportunity to ‘earn’ a pie.  Pies are earned by keeping energy use below the peak goal line, at 23,000kW.  If we exceed the line at any time during the day, no pie is earned.  Last summer we were in curtailment for more than 30 days…that’s a lot of pies!

At the end of the summer, LiveGreen will host a Peak Party!  We’ll update you on the overall success of the energy curtailment program, provide some cool treats, and of course, let the pies fly!