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Originally published Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Saving energy, one megawatt at a time

Srue, you've invested in your Energy Star washer and dryer to reduce your carbon emissions. But you also bought an energy-sucking plasma television and installed one of those new portable air conditioners.

Srue, you've invested in your Energy Star washer and dryer to reduce your carbon emissions. But you also bought an energy-sucking plasma television and installed one of those new portable air conditioners.

We're not trying to make you feel guilty for watching baseball or staying cool. But that's why senior-level representatives from utilities, business, government and energy-efficiency groups have formed to search for energy savings as a way to keep energy costs down and defer investment in new power sources. The Northwest Energy Efficiency Task force members hail from Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and British Columbia.

Think of these people as searching the couch cushions for spare electrons. The cheapest kilowatt-hour is the one you don't use. In 2007, the cost of new wind power came in at 7.5 cents a kilowatt-hour, while investment to conserve energy, including public education, costs a mere 1.25 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The task force will scour the Northwest for opportunities to save more energy, discern what new energy-efficiency technology research might be most promising and what is needed to bolster public education to help people make smart choices.

That might include recommending standards for plasma TVs or training more energy-efficiency specialists. There are anecdotes of California utilities raiding Northwest utilities of these suddenly sought-after pros.

The task force, which is chaired by the Bonneville Power administrator, the CEO of Pacific Power and a former chair of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, is expected to complete its work by December.

Their work could be significant. Since 1980, the Northwest has reduced demand for electricity through efficiency improvements by 3,700 megawatts — enough power for Seattle, Portland and Boise combined. About 200 megawatts of that total was achieved in 2007 alone.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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