Energy Curtailment

Why?

The extra heat and humidity means extra stress on campus systems. 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.

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.  All other spaces are subject to curtailment.

What?

When we enter into curtailment mode, we lock out all thermostats.  This allows the system to keep all the spaces at a tolerable temperature in the most efficient way possible.

In the past many of you felt cold on curtailment days.  It seemed backwards, that you would save energy by having it be colder in spaces when it was so hot out.  It was an effective way to save energy and money though—it’s inefficient to produce heat when it’s hot out, and that’s what we were doing.  By not producing that heat, some spaces felt cold.  For a full explanation on that process, click here.

Updating technology has allowed us to control this process better.  Beginning in 2018, spaces that were previously cold will be affected differently by energy curtailment.  They will still be pre-cooled at night. {“Pre-cooling” is a literal term: spaces are cooled in the early morning, before people arrive.  This is also when energy use is lower, and before the sun is beating down and temps get really hot.  Spaces are often cooled below the temperature set on the thermostat, which makes it easier for the system to keep up, once the heat and humidity are in full effect.} However, these spaces will not need to be pre-cooled to such a cold temp to see the energy savings. This does mean that your space will likely get warmer in the afternoon.  e.g. instead of finding your space at 67 degrees when you arrive, it could be at 70. In the afternoon, instead of being at 72 it will be 75.

Not only does this tend to mirror what happens in a residential situation, it is overwhelmingly what you, the building occupants, have requested.  You were cold sitting at your desk and would rather have it be a little warmer and we are happy to report that this is now possible.

The Med Center has a temperature range to maintain. Please call 2-3347 (Nebraska Medicine) or 9-4050 (UNMC) to report spaces colder than 66 degrees or warmer than 75 degrees.

What can I do to help?

To help ease the cooling load, and keep your space in that temperature range employees should:

  • 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;
  • Shut fume hood sashes when not in use;
  • Turn off and unplug all electrical equipment not in use (computers, coffee makers, printers, chargers, etc.), especially in offices. Charge devices after 7pm or at home;
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator;
  • Open doors manually instead of using the ADA buttons;
  • Use revolving doors, where available.

Why do we go through all this effort?  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 amount of energy we use at any given time determines the rate we pay for the entire next year, starting immediately.  We want to keep that peak as low as possible, and save as much money 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, shut fume hood sashes, 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.

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.

If we are in curtailment, you’ll notice an info box as well as an image of a meter demonstrating the importance of our actions.

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.