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State workers heed calls to save power

Thermostats up and lights dim in offices

SHARE State workers heed calls to save power

David Fletcher works in the dark at the State Office Building.

"I keep my lights off. I get good exterior light. I've got to practice what I preach or what the governor is preaching," says the Utah Department of Administrative Services deputy director. "I don't use the elevator much anymore."

Tuesday marked the second consecutive "yellow day" according to Gov. Mike Leavitt's PowerForward energy conservation program. On days where the mercury soars above 95 degrees, residents are urged to avoid using electricity between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Leavitt issued an executive order last month for state agencies to cut back power consumption.

He reiterated it with an e-mail to state workers Monday, and Administrative Services held meetings to remind employees of the energy savings policy Tuesday.

"It will take some days for it to be fully operational," said Natalie Gochnour, the governor's spokeswoman.

A walk through the Capitol on Tuesday showed workers seem to be listening to the boss.

Bulbs in unused rooms and halls weren't burning. Dim skylights illuminated the vacant House chambers, but the lights and electronic calendar were on in the Senate even though the body wasn't in session. The bills docket was lighted because a computer technician was doing some work on the system, said Senate public affairs officer Eric Isom.

As for the ceiling lights, he said they'll be off "from now on."

"We're trying to be conscientious," Isom said. "I shut off the light on my overhead storage bin.

Senate staff members also went around flipping off switches and turning up thermostats in unoccupied rooms.

Fletcher said most employees are open to conservation measures.

They might also be receptive to the relaxed — but not too relaxed — dress standards that go along with setting the thermostat at 78 degrees.

"I don't know that we're going to allow shorts," he said, adding business casual would be appropriate to maintain comfort.

On yellow days and red days, which signify an urgent need to turn off all noncritical electricity, some state buildings will switch to backup generators to lighten the load on Utah Power during peak hours, Fletcher said.

"That'll actually save money for taxpayers, too," he said. The change reduces the amount of energy Utah Power buys on the open market, the cost of which drives up prices for consumers.

E-MAIL: romboy@desnews.com