Groups Urge Proper Planning, Conservation: What About Supply?

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:21 PM EDT

( - After Thursday's massive power outage, the Red Cross urged the American public to be better prepared for such emergencies, whatever the cause. An energy conservation group said government, businesses, and citizens should do a better job of reducing electricity demand. But one policy expert said the problem is the transmission grid itself - and federal regulations that stymie a remedy.

Be prepared

"The Red Cross challenges every individual, family member, business or school to know what to do and where to go in the event of any type of disaster," the group said in a press release.

Make a plan and assemble a disaster supplies kit, the Red Cross urged, repeating the advice it issued in the wake of the 9-11 terror attacks.

"We recommend that individuals identify potential disaster scenarios and practice what to do if evacuation is needed. It is also important to identify an out-of-town person that each family member will contact in case of emergency."

Energy conservation

The Alliance to Save Energy urged consumers and business to adopt "energy-smart practices and energy-efficiency measures."

The group was founded and co-chaired by Senators Charles H. Percy (R-Ill.) and Hubert H. Humphrey (D-Minn.) in 1977, following the energy crisis created by the OPEC oil embargo.

The Alliance offers a list of steps that consumers, business, and government can take to conserve energy.

"Government at all levels, utility companies, business, and consumers are all part of the problem and together can be part of the solution," the Alliance says on its website.

Among other things, the Alliance says the federal government should set "strong new efficiency standards for residential air conditioners"; and it wants Congress to enact tax credits for energy efficiency and other "clean energy technology."

The group wants state and local governments to adopt energy conservation codes for new buildings.

It says utilities can help by promoting energy-efficient air conditioning, windows, and appliances; offering load control and thermal storage incentives to customers; and investing in energy sources such as fuel cells or solar electric technology.

Businesses should modernizing lighting fixtures to put less demand on air conditioning, the Alliance says. Business can also adjust thermostats at higher levels to avoid over-cooling office buildings.

And finally, consumers can help by purchasing air conditioners windows, and appliances that meet the strict energy efficiency "Energy Star" guidelines set by the EPA and US Department of Energy.

The group also recommends the use of programmable thermostats and it says washing machines, dishwashers and other electric appliances should be run at off-peak hours.

On its website, the Alliance says it practices what it preaches, by working out of an energy-efficient headquarters built in July 1996 in Washington. The building "showcases the latest lighting and other advanced technologies," the Alliance said.

Signs on the office walls explain the energy-efficient technologies, the group says, and it boasts that the Alliance's headquarters is 50 percent more efficient than the typical office suite. "Tours are available," the website says.

Transmission problems

On the other side of the energy conservation coin is energy supply. There's plenty of supply, some experts say - the problem is the actual transmission of that supply to the places that need it.

In an interview with Fox News, energy policy expert Jerry Taylor said power generation capacity has increased over the years - but there's been no new construction of the transmission grid.

"The main reason why we don't have more transmission lines... is because you can't make any money building it.," said Taylor.

"It's a very, very tightly regulated industry. The government restricts the amount of profit a company can make... and because of that, companies don't invest in it...and until we provide some profit incentives for companies to put money into it, they're not going to put money into it."