Last April, Dan wrote to ask GRS readers for help with a sudden energy crisis. Because of a natural disaster, electricity costs in Juneau, Alaska jumped from $0.11 per kilowatt-hour to $0.53 per kilowatt-hour. In this follow-up, Dan explains how his family coped with high energy costs.

It’s been over three months since an avalanche knocked out our hydropower supply in Juneau. At that time, Get Rich Slowly readers provided plenty of great comments and potential solutions. Unfortunately, we rarely get sunny days here in Southeast Alaska because it rains or snows about 200 days a year. Thus, we couldn’t make use of the oft-recommended solar energy.

The two areas in which we drastically cut back were:

  • Our use of electric heat
  • Our use of hot water

In fact, we turned off our electric heat completely after the avalanche. The temperatures were in the forties, so our house was chilly and uncomfortable for a month. We piled on the layers and tried to keep warm.

We also took shorter showers and fewer baths. Before the avalanche, I didn’t realize how much hot water we were using. We also unplugged appliances like coffee pots, clocks, and so on. (Though I’m not sure if that helped much.) Our consumption went down over 50%. The reduced water consumption is sustainable, but the electric heat will need to be turned back on eventually.

I’ve attached a few scans from our electricity bill. The avalanche occurred on April 16th, so the April bill includes the start of our conservation. We reduced from 1214 KWH in April to 545 KWH the next month.

March usage: 43.00 KWH per day

April usage: 39.00 KWH per day

May usage: 18.00 KWH per day, down 40% from 2007!

A lot of people around town bought candles. I thought this opened a new can of worms because of the fire hazard. (Plus candles are expensive!) A 100-Watt equivalent CFL is only going to burn 10 watts per hour. It would require approximately 100 hours of use to use up a KWH, and that would only cost $.53. We already had CFL lights before the disaster, so this couldn’t be a source of savings for us.

The hydropower was restored about six weeks after the avalanche. Most places around town have returned to their normal ways, but some offices (our office included) still have the lights out. We got accustomed to working without overhead lighting. We tried turning it on one day, but it was too bright.

There was a lot of attention on our story. A Korean television station even came to Juneau to interview people on how they conserved. Here are some media links:

We’re starting to save for future disasters. The electric company repaired the transmission lines, but left them in the same place as before the avalanche. While it was a quick repair, we may have more months like these in the springs to come.

Thanks to Dan for providing this follow-up. If there’s a past GRS story you’d like an update on, please let me know.

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