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July 14, 1997

To: Faculty & Staff

From: John Torphy, Vice Chancellor

Subject: Potential Electrical Power Interruptions

A significant electric power interruption may occur this summer. Loss of power to the university facilities could be devastating unless we carefully manage our power usage.

As I’m sure you’ve read, maintenance work on electrical generating plants serving Wisconsin utility customers may result in electrical power shortages for the university through August 1997. Several factors will affect the potential severity and duration of electrical power shortages, including: when generating plants are returned to service, the availability of power form outside the state, equipment failures, weather conditions and the effectiveness of voluntary steps to reduce power consumption.

The Public Service Commission has coordinated with utilities to exclude critical facilities from potential blackouts (e.g., emergency communication equipment, hospitals and prisons). Only the University Hospital has been given an exemption. Staff from the Graduate School and Physical Plant have been working on a plan to minimize the risk of a complete power outage. Incremental power reductions may be necessary to avoid rolling blackouts. Mission critical activities and programs are scheduled to receive power for as long as possible.

We have reached an agreement with Madison Gas and Electric on the requirements and process which we will use to reduce power usage on the campus in case of such power shortages. The terms and specifics of that agreement have been shared with building managers.

However, power reduction opportunities exist in your work area. You can help now and in the case a reduction is necessary. Please take the time to identify what you can do if the call for reduction occurs. A list of options is attached. Many of these options can be initiated now. Your assistance can help us avoid a power shortfall that could result in the loss of millions of dollars and years of research. If you have questions or suggestions, please contact John Harrod, Director of Physical Plant at 263-3077.

University of Wisconsin–Madison Energy Reduction Opportunities


  • Make use of natural light.
  • Turn off all nonessential lighting.
  • Stop the use of personal cooking/heating/cooling appliances including electric water coolers, coffee pots, microwaves, space heaters and desk fans.
  • Minimize use of hot plates, burners and heat lamps in labs. Consolidate contents of individual freezers and refrigerators. Unplug those not in use.
  • Set computers, monitors, printers and copiers to their energy-saving mode. Turn off when not in use.
  • Set work space temperatures to 78 degrees F. Cool space during non-peak electrical loads (night). Be prepared to unplug window air conditioners. Keep blinds on south-facing windows closed and close east-facing windows before leaving day.
  • Use the steps not the elevator.
  • Consider work schedules that begin earlier in the morning.

You can make a difference!