Carson-Newman helps lead in energy shedding program

Marty Chambers, Carson-Newman University’s chief financial officer, front left, sits with Mitch Cain of Appalachian Electric Cooperative as the two sign a contract making the University the first organization in Jefferson County to join the new Demand Response Program.  Chambers and Cain are joined by Ondes Webster, back left, and Steve Finchum of C-N’s Physical Plant.

Marty Chambers, Carson-Newman University’s chief financial officer, front left, sits with Mitch Cain of Appalachian Electric Cooperative as the two sign a contract making the University the first organization in Jefferson County to join the new Demand Response Program. Chambers and Cain are joined by Ondes Webster, back left, and Steve Finchum of C-N’s Physical Plant.

(Oct. 30, 2013) --- Carson-Newman University is partnering with local power distributer Appalachian Electric Cooperative to be the first to launch the “Demand Response Program,” an initiative that will shed power on campus during peak power usage.

According to Ondes Webster, Carson-Newman director of physical plant and construction manager, the power shedding provides a huge savings in energy costs and paves the way for Jefferson County to be energy efficient. Webster said participation in the program is important to keep energy costs from rising. It will not noticeably affect campus facilities.

The power shedding initiative is a pilot program by Appalachian Electric to partner with the community to control peak energy use.

“It is a stewardship measure,” said Mitch Cain, director of member services with Appalachian Electric Cooperative, who is pleased with the University’s participation in the project. “Carson-Newman has said they are a partner in this and they will be good stewards, be efficient and be an example for the community. That is what you are looking for in a partner.”

According to Cain, power shedding initiatives have been attempted previously by third party companies. However, Cain said that the Appalachian Electric’s program is unique in that it originates at a local power company level and is a partnership between local business and a non-profit cooperative. Appalachian Electric Cooperative operates as a not-for-profit company, which Cain said results in greater incentives for energy savings since there is no need to make a profit.

“This program gives a brief window in demand,” Cain said. “In reality it is a cost savings not only for the University but for all rate payers of TVA.”

Like all energy providers in the state, Appalachian Electric receives its energy from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). TVA must generate enough electricity to meet demand. If energy demand exceeds the TVA’s energy resources, TVA must purchase electricity in the open market, which Cain said is higher priced. The extra energy that the TVA purchases reflects in slightly higher energy costs to all TVA customers, Cain said.

Purchasing from the open market is only a short-term solution for peak energy use.

If local distributers such as Appalachian Electric cannot find ways to cap the rising demand, TVA will need to look at ways to meet the need. Currently, Watts Barr Nuclear Power Plant on the northern end of the Chickamauga Reservoir in East Tennessee is expected to finish its second reactor in December 2015. According to TVA, construction began in 2007 after detailed study of energy needs.

“The more the demand for electricity increases, the more TVA must increase energy capability to generate supply — whether this is nuclear, hydro, or fossil fuels,” Cain said. “All efficiency programs help reduce the need for that.”

Cain hopes programs such as the ones in place at Appalachian Electric will help offset future needs for expanded energy production.

Carson-Newman has committed to shed 200 kilowatts of electricity for 12 hours per fiscal year, which runs from October to September. Cain said that peak energy usage typically occurs during the summer in the afternoons when air conditioning is high.

Since the University’s commitment to the program, two additional area businesses have followed suit.

This is not Carson-Newman’s first attempt to be energy conscious. By upgrading to energy saving type fixtures and equipment on campus, the University has saved in excess of $1 million in energy costs over the past few years. Webster said that despite building four buildings and the Burke-Tarr Stadium, there has been no noticeable energy increase since 2005.

“To be able to add to their facilities and maintain an electric load at flat level is a real testament to the efforts of Ondes and his staff,” Cain said. “I would say Carson-Newman is certainly setting the bar in their response to energy efficiency and is a great example for the East Tennessee region.”

Webster said that the University will maintain its energy saving precedent as the campus continues to grow, and Cain hopes the surrounding community will take note of the University’s example.

“It is something we are all in together,” Cain said. “It would be our hope that others would be as proactive as Carson-Newman and join them at making energy efficiency a priority for their business.”