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Before Cranking Up the AC, Think of the Energy Burden

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Thursday, June 10, 2021   

BISMARCK, N.D. - It's been tempting for North Dakota residents to blast their air conditioners during the early-summer heat wave. With hot and sticky weather still forecast, energy-efficiency advocates urge moderation to allow the lights to stay on for everybody.

Record high temperatures have been set around the region in recent days, and some areas could see a few more hot days over the next week.

Cooling your home is necessary, but groups such as the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance say there are actions you can take to protect others and the environment. The Alliance's Programs Director, Molly Graham, said a lot of it comes down to timing.

"So, maybe around 3 p.m. to 8 or 9, when most people are at home or getting home from work - we're washing dishes, doing laundry, watching TV," said Graham. "So, there are times during the day that put greater stress on the electric grid than other times."

Experts say doing some of these tasks during non-peak times can help. Other tips include keeping your blinds closed, and adjusting the air-conditioner setting for when you're not home.

Graham said this helps to prevent rolling blackouts, such as the ones North Dakota saw during extreme weather events this past winter. Other advocates say it reduces your home's carbon footprint.

University of Michigan researchers say residential energy use accounts for roughly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Meanwhile, Graham said reducing grid demand protects vulnerable populations from dealing with an energy emergency.

"If you have a health condition where you need to refrigerate your medicine, for example, of if your are on some form of supportive service where electricity is critical," said Graham, "you are clearly going to be impacted the greatest."

She says low-income residents and communities of color often shoulder the energy burden because they often spend a significant portion of their income on monthly bills, and tend to live in less-efficient homes that have historically lacked investment.

As for protecting the grid, she noted Midwestern states have stepped up modernization efforts to hopefully make the infrastructure more resilient. But she said there's emerging technology such as micro-grids that still need to be adopted to make the system even stronger.




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