Dan wrote with a question unlike any I’ve received before. He lives in Alaska, where the residents of Juneau have been confronted with a sudden energy crisis (more here). Here’s Dan’s story:

I am facing a unique energy situation. I live in Juneau, Alaska. Last Wednesday, we had an avalanche which affected the electricity generation within our community. Our energy costs went from $0.11 per kilowatt-hour to $0.50 per kilowatt-hour instantly. Imagine your electricity bill quintupling from $150 to $750 each month. This increase will continue for at least three months.

We rent an apartment with electric heat. We’ve attempted to reduce our consumption substantially, cutting back on lights, tv, computer, and even heat. Pile on the the sweaters! It’s not quite Spring here yet, so it’s a little cool around the house. One thing we’re trying to reduce is our water consumption — our electric water heater may be a source of significant kilowatts.

We haven’t seen food prices increase around town yet, which has been fortunate. Everyone’s basically in the same boat. Grocery stores are dark, but open. Some small businesses aren’t operating.

Do you or your readers have any thoughts on saving energy?

According to the Juneau Empire, 22 percent of Juneau’s households are heated by electricity. But, of course, residents and businesses use electricity for more than just warmth; it’s a vital part of daily life.

The newspaper notes that it will take 100,000 gallons of diesel per day to pick up the slack, at a daily cost of nearly $400,000. Also from the article:

“It’s a disaster,” said Cathie Roemmich, Chief Executive Officer of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce. “This is when we need to pull together.” She was particularly worried about young people and small businesses, she said, who might not be able to handle their higher electric bills. But everyone should use less energy. “The more you and I conserve, the less we all end up paying,” she said Wednesday afternoon. “In fact, I’m going to turn the lights off right now.”

This situation highlights the need for disaster preparedness and for a solid emergency fund. How would you cope if your power bill went up by $500 a month with no warning? A spokeswoman for Alaska Electric Light & Power recommends “living an urban camping lifestyle”. That’s nice, but what’s going to happen to small businesses? Reading the comments on the article (the web version of the Juneau Empire is a blog!), residents are not happy.

Meanwhile, Dan could use some energy conservation tips. What would you do if your electricity costs quintupled? Would you find alternate sources of light? Would you give up television? Your computer? Wear your clothes more than once before washing them?

Photo by DanieVDM.

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