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Release: May 22, 2001

UI plans for energy-saving shutdowns this summer

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Officials at the University of Iowa are planning for a long, hot summer with some of the highest utility rates in history. This means planning for those times when use of electrical power in many parts of the campus may be reduced to save energy costs. And this summer for the first time, the curtailments could affect most -- if not all -- buildings on campus.

John Amend, UI associate vice president and director, facilities services group, describes this summer’s energy curtailment program as "the UI's most aggressive to date." To help departments cope with possible disruptions in their work schedules, the university is holding a meeting Wednesday, May 23 at 3 p.m. in Macbride Auditorium. There, staff members of the facilities services group will share details of this summer's energy curtailment, hear concerns, and answer questions.

The UI generates some electrical energy at its own power plant and has a contract with MidAmerican Energy to provide additional electricity to the campus. Part of this contract includes participation in MidAmerican's electrical curtailment program, which limits electrical usage during peak periods. Curtailment -- meaning reduction of electrical power for up to six hours -- can be requested by MidAmerican between June 1 and Sept. 30. The program benefits the university through lower utility costs.

In previous years, Amend says, the university has been able to avoid affecting certain buildings on campus because they contain critical research or other activities that cannot lose power. This year, he says, that approach may not be possible, and while the specific critical functions will be protected, other activities in the buildings could be affected.

A number of curtailment strategies will be used to reduce power use in most buildings on campus, including increasing air temperatures, cycling air conditioning systems on and off or even turning them off completely during the curtailment, shutting down ventilation systems, and/or turning off non-essential lighting. In the few buildings where these strategies will not work, either because of their special occupancy needs or for technical reasons, departments will be asked to voluntarily reduce energy use.

"Because the effects this year will be so widespread, it’s very important that we have the widest possible understanding of the program," Amend says. "We hope that every university department and organization on campus will send someone to the meeting, not only to hear what we have to say, but to confirm we are aware of their specific concerns." The only units not directly affected are those on the Oakdale Campus, which is not covered under the contract with MidAmerican Energy.

The university has tentatively scheduled a practice curtailment for June 21 to ensure that the total campus electrical load can be sufficiently reduced. "If the university fails to meet reduction levels in a real curtailment the penalty would be significant," Amend says.

For a list of the buildings affected or for more information about the curtailment program, see the web site at