About Me

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Douglas, Alaska, United States
I have lived in Alaska since 1978, having come to Juneau as a Jesuit Volunteer. I fell in love with Alaska and now live on Douglas Island with my husband and two dogs.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Turn Down, Turn Off, Unplug

In April of 2008, an avalanche took out the power lines that bring electricity to the City and Borough of Juneau from the Snettisham Hydroelectric Facility.

The result was that, as with most power outages in Juneau, Alaska Electric Light and Power switched over to the diesel generators to continue to provide electricity.  However, this wasn't just any normal power outage.  The repairs were predicted to take weeks, perhaps months, and the cost of the diesel fuel to power the generators was extremely high.

AEL&P told their customers that the cost per kilowatt hour was going to increase by approximately 500%.  The City and local organizations worked together to help people who were already struggling with their utility bills, and the citizens were urged to drastically decrease their electricity consumption.

The rallying cry was: "Turn Down, Turn Off, Unplug!" and the citizens of Juneau did just that.

An article in US News and World Report described how Juneau- and Douglasites coped.

We turned off lights, those of us with dishwashers (we didn't have one at the time!) washed dishes by hand, people used their gas and charcoal grills to cook, people hung clothes outside (or inside on rainy days) to dry, and people used as little power as possible to keep costs down.  And it worked.  We all managed to get along just fine with less power.  People ate by candle light, played board games, made music together instead of watching TV or playing computer games.  We  joined together in a common purpose and survived the energy crisis.

Tonight, I was looking at some of my favorite blogs and found this wonderful post by Lois of Living Simply Free.  Lois lives in a 300 square foot home, and lives as "green" a life as possible.  To commemorate Earth Day, she decided to unplug for 24 hours.  The 24 hours turned into two weeks.  Read the post - it is inspiring.

Her post made me remember Juneau's energy "fast".  How easy it is to forget how well we all got along without using excess power for all those weeks.  We weren't completely unplugged, like Lois, but we still conserved.  Not a bad idea.  So, now that it is staying light out later and later each day (at least until June 21!), I think I will try the experiment again.  That means less time on the computer  - a big sacrifice for me :-), no TV during the day (sorry, Matt Lauer, you're just going to have to soldier on without me), cooking more things at once instead of firing up the stove several times a day, and hanging up the laundry indoors (until I can get Charles to put up a clothesline outside).

We'll see how it goes, and if our power bill goes down!


  1. It is quite amazing just how much we can do without when we have to. When we moved to the Little House, I decided to see how much I could save on electricity by hanging the clothes out on every single day that I could and even hung some indoors at times. I shaved off at least $30.00 a month on our electric bill and that is just for the 2 of us..Just think what a family of 4 could save a month.
    Will you let us know your experiment goes? Good luck! xo

  2. I think that is such a great idea. At home I do not watch TV during the day, although my computer is on... no radio, just silence. I try to run all my errands at the same time, usually on the way home from work to save gas. Little things but they add up.

  3. That is so impressive! Living in the heat and humidity of Florida I can relate backwards when we have no power due to a hurricane. Inconvenient but not impossible. And the bill that month is always a blessing. Good luck in continuing!


  4. For years we have tried to make small changes, to conserve energy where we can. I hope to someday be able to put solar panels up on the roof, to save even more. It makes my heart ache to see how our energy use blasts mountain tops completely off, destroys communities and makes people sick. I think we would all use less if we were more aware.

  5. So interesting!! I read your post to my husband who was really interested as we are, at the moment, trying to cut out using oil as it has become so expensive.We have not used it for our central heating. Last winter we installed a wind turbine and we have been using electricity only when the wind is blowing (which means practically all the time here in Wales) So washing etc gets done on windy days. Here in Britain we tend to hang our washing out anyway. So it seems we all have different ways of cutting down on our utility bills1! Joan

  6. I love this kind of stuff. With our transition to me staying home, we have definitely been trying to come up with convenient ways to shrink our monthly bills. My DH is in the process of putting up clotheline polls in our yard and I am super excited. Even better we got the polls for free, along with the line and the pins. We just have to buy some cement. I am excited. Yes, it doesn't take much for me to be excited!! :)


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