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Railbelt Electric and Gas Utilities Harmonize Efforts with the Municipality of Anchorage and Others

Organizations throughout the Railbelt are making plans to deal with a potential natural gas shortfall this winter. While it’s not considered likely, all agree that it is important to be prepared. Nobody wants to be caught unprepared on a cold, dark winter evening. That’s why the electric utilities in the Railbelt, ENSTAR, and the Municipality of Anchorage have been working together on a collective approach to the situation.

How can I be more efficient?
As consumers, each of us should use energy wisely. Snug, well-insulated structures will retain heat and reduce the amount of gas needed to fuel furnaces and boilers. If you are buying a major new appliance like a refrigerator, look for one that has earned an ENERGY STAR rating. Gas and electric utilities can provide information to help you better understand your energy bill and how to take steps to control it through conservation and energy efficiency. The U.S. Department of Energy and Alaska Housing Finance Corporation are other great resources for information and programs. 

How can I help in an emergency?
If the gas delivery system is going to come under extra stress, it is usually going to be in the evening hours during a prolonged cold snap. In addition to the steps you’re already taking to use energy wisely, you may be asked to further reduce your use of natural gas and electricity to help take pressure off the gas delivery system. Taking relatively small steps like turning down thermostats, lowering the setting on your water heater, postponing activities like doing laundry or dishes, and turning off unused lights and electronics can make a big difference in the amount of gas that’s needed during a few critical hours.

How will I know if my help is needed?
If it’s necessary to call for voluntary actions by consumers to help reduce the demand on the gas delivery system, local government officials and Emergency Operations will make an announcement through the media Centers. Announcements should outline the situation, spell out specific actions customers are being asked to take, and provide some idea of the duration of the problem.

How will outages be handled … and will I lose gas service?
Electric utilities can do something that gas utilities generally can’t: interrupt service to selected customers for short periods of time and then restore it. Therefore, no scheduled service outages are planned for ENSTAR customers. Planned power outages would be a last resort, necessary only if the combination of system operations and voluntary customer actions fail to cut enough demand from the gas delivery system. If it becomes necessary to interrupt service to electric customers, outages are planned to be 20-30 minutes long and rotated among customers, with consideration for critical facilities.