Faculty and staff encouraged to reduce electrical usage for June 18 load test

June 16, 2020

From 4 to 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 18, Penn State will conduct its annual test of University Park’s capability to reduce its electricity load when called upon during national or regional power emergencies. Last year’s test reduced the power load by 41%, about 14 megawatts, during the test hour.

This year, with the University’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak resulting in fewer people on campus and electric consumption already lower, the University's approach will be different: 

  • Penn State will not be changing HVAC systems to an unoccupied cycle. Systems will remain in occupied mode so that ventilation can be provided.
  • Penn State will be increasing cooling setpoints from 75 degrees to 80 degrees in non-critical spaces. Please note, research and critical spaces will remain unchanged during the test.
  • The Office of Physical Plant (OPP) will focus mostly on behind-the-scenes ways to reduce the overall electrical load during the one-hour test. OPP’s efforts will include “top-off” water towers and turn off well pumps where possible and switch specific facilities to generator power.
  • University employees and students that are on campus during the one-hour test are requested to turn off all unnecessary lighting, office equipment, coffee pots, dehumidifiers and air conditioning. 

This test event is part of an Emergency Demand Response program in which participants pledge to reduce their electrical energy use by a specified amount during high use periods of time. The objective of the program is to protect the day-to-day reliability of the regional grid upon which our campus relies. This reliability is important for utility companies because it helps them avoid a blackout. If successful, the University will receive compensation proportional to the load drop, and those funds will be used to support additional energy conservation projects.

In 2018-19, the University spent $17.8 million on electricity for the University Park campus, $13.8 million from the grid and $4 million from onsite generation.

Employees are empowered to reduce lighting in public spaces. This includes all empty classrooms, corridors and hallways where lower light settings are available. Corridors and hallways in most University Park campus buildings are designed with lights that operate 24/7, which are connected to emergency power in case of normal power failure. These lights should illuminate the public spaces well enough to meet code requirements. Please contact OPP prior to the test if you have any questions concerning a particular space.

If you are on campus during this event on Thursday, here are recommended actions to take during the test:

  • Shut off all office equipment and lights that are not needed (computers, monitors, printers, copiers, coffee makers and task lighting)
  • Unplug iPad, tablet, digital camera and cellphone chargers not in use
  • Keep exterior doors closed in air-conditioned buildings. Make sure operable windows are also closed
  • Personal space heaters should not be used to compensate for excessive air conditioning and are not permitted in University buildings unless provided by OPP for extraordinary circumstances

Everyone is asked to cooperate by turning off all unnecessary electrical loads during this one-hour test. For specific further information, contact Mike Prinkey at 814-863-4091.


Last Updated June 16, 2020