Flex your power to avoid summer blackouts

By Mona Blaber, Chapter communications director

Summer Conservation Tips

Strategic and timely power use can keep the lights on and save money and energy while protecting the grid from climate-fueled heat strain.

  • Conserve energy between 4 and 8 pm, when demand is peaking.
  • Draw blinds or drapes during the sunniest part of the day.
  • Avoid using the stove or oven during the hottest part of the day.
  • Do laundry and run the dishwasher after 7 pm or in the early morning.
  • Wash laundry in cold water. About 90% of the energy used by washers goes to water heating.
  • Ceiling fans allow you to raise your thermostat about 4°. In summer, fans should turn counter clockwise, pushing air downs, making the home feel cooler.
  • Sign up for service notifications from your utility to be aware of when conservation is most valuable. Or follow your electric utility on social media and watch for conservation notices, then respond by lowering your consumption when requested.

Our existing power grid is a marvel of engineering, but it was not built with the realities of climate change in mind. Our failure to rapidly reduce fossil-fuel pollution is driving new pressures and threats to the electricity system, including wildfires and extreme weather.

In New Mexico, the aging San Juan Generating Station coal plant has long been scheduled to close this year. PNM and other owners decided to extend the operation of one of the San Juan units through the summer due to a confluence of crises, including the COVID pandemic, supply-chain delays, and the increased likelihood of extreme heat due to climate change.

In addition, a U.S. Commerce Department investigation on solar tariffs brought many of the nation’s solar projects to a halt this spring. The Biden administration in June issued a two-year waiver on solar tariffs, but the months-long standstill means some facilities meant for New Mexico customers will be delayed.

To avoid future catastrophic events that compromise our grid, we must eliminate the planet-heating emissions of coal, oil and gas power. Utilities must also invest in better planning, strengthening energy-efficiency programs, improving customer communication and time-of-use programs that incentivize electricity use at non-peak times.

But we as customers have a significant impact on grid strain, and taking some simple steps such as changing the time we wash our clothes can save energy and help avoid blackouts and brownouts during extreme weather events.

PNM has information on rebates for energy-efficient appliances, home energy checkups, income-qualified kits with free light bulbs and energy-saving power strips and other programs.

The Public Regulation Commission features links to other energy-saving programs, rebates and tips from PNM, El Paso Electric and SPS.

As always, encouraging utilities and policymakers to act on climate change is critical, but you can make a difference right now to protect the grid, burn fewer fossil fuels and save some cash.

Featured image from Blue Diamond Gallery

Flex your power to avoid summer blackouts