Nevada energy plan puts IT to work

Nevada identifies information technology as part of both the problem and solution in its new Energy Conservation Plan for State Government.

The plan — which outlines ways Nevada departments and commissions can help control the state's energy costs and keep the lights on for all Nevadans — recommends upgrading computers and monitors to more energy-efficient models.

But the plan also suggests that, in the short term, agencies do a better job using those computers to share information, rather than relying on old-fashioned face-to-face meetings so often.

"Teleconferencing, email, video conferencing — they're all more energy-efficient options than, say, driving your car across town to a client meeting," said Bob Balzar, director of regional power company Sierra Pacific Resources' "Project Take Control".

The plan also suggests upgrading internal networks so it's more feasible for people to print to centralized printers rather than having the equipment spread throughout departments.

And when more creative uses of technology to conserve energy for Nevada are proposed, the state will be ready to recommend them, said Jack Finn, a spokesman for Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn (gov.state.nv.us). "This is not a stagnant plan. It will be updated as new proposals and remedies are brought to light," he said.

For example, Terry Savage, director of the state's Department of Information Technology (doitweb.state.nv.us), said the Internet could support the use of a peak-hour pricing scheme in which consumers pay higher energy prices when demand is most intense.

For starters, a system could be set up to send detailed pricing information to consumers' home computers. Then, if a consumer wants to spend only so much a month on energy bills, such information can be loaded into a program that shuts off or reduces the use of certain non-essential appliances — such as air conditioners or water heaters — once the price threshold is reached for a given month.

"There's no better incentive for conservation than high prices," Savage said. "What this program would do is allow the consumer to control what they spend on energy, and at the same time, allow the Internet to be the main facilitator for the process."

He added, "There's no new technology needed for this, but it, like most things, is a question of economics."

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