CLU has membership with the BIP

California Lutheran University is a member of the Base Interruptible Program through Southern California Edison allowing the university to save $150,000 annually on power. Cal Lutheran has been enrolled in the BIP for at least 20 years with a total savings of over $3,000,000.

In order to earn these savings, Cal Lutheran has agreed to, at any time, shut down power and curtail load to other places that need it in a state of emergency.

“We contract with Edison for a little less expensive power. And we get that because we agree that if Edison needs power, we shed power so that they can redirect power direction due to a shortage,” Mark Jacobsen, director of facility management, said.

Any large institutions that consumes over 500 kilowatts of energy are eligible for membership in the program. These can include hospitals, industrial complexes, schools or anywhere with major power consumption who can get the most advantage out of the program.

“On the south side of campus, we have multiple different feeds just because campus has evolved over the years,” Jacobsen said. “There are so many different directions that the power goes.”

Participation in the program is voluntary for big organizations that will see the most financial benefit. Depending on how much power an organization can shut off and redirect in an emergency determines the power bill reduction.

“It’s all based on the customer’s ability and their volunteering to curtail load during times when demand is fairly high on the system,” Rudy Gonzales, an Edison public affairs manager, said.

However, in order to stay in the program, Cal Lutheran is subject to a test one-time-per-year shut down with 30 minutes notice. According to Paul Barnett, California Lutheran University’s Edison account manager, these tests are mandated by the California Public Utilities Commission.

“Part of our contract, our obligation, is the university has 30 minutes from the time we are told to cut power. When it happens, it’s kind of confusing and everything turns to chaos,” Jacobsen said.

At Cal Lutheran, Jacobsen said that they are almost always during the school year and during the day where the university is consuming the most power. Edison wants to see in a true emergency how fast the university could shut down.

At times, emergencies do not occur throughout the year. BIP members still get discounts but without having to shut down more than once during the testing.

“Each institution enrolled in this BIP are subject to at least a one-time-per-year test,” Jacobsen said. “Before the tests, during the year, Edison wouldn’t need to shift power and hey, that’s $200,000 more in their pockets for not doing anything.”

However, Jacobsen said  some organizations would refuse to shut down during the testing. In recent years, Edison has instilled additional fines to prevent this action.

“When Edison would call for a shutdown, these companies wouldn’t shut down. They would just pay the fines,” Jacobsen said. “Those fines were never in excess of the benefit to them. They were gaming the system. They know who those companies are that don’t shut down, and they boot them out of the program.”

During one BIP shutdown test, facilities was confused as to what block was being called for a shutdown. Fines later incurred were due to this miscommunication.

“It’s about $3,000 a minute in excess of 30 minutes that we don’t make the shutdown time,” Jacobsen said. “We went a little past our deadline and it cost us about $15,000 just in those couple of minutes.”

This upcoming summer, there is expected to be up to 14 power outages in the university and surrounding communities. According to Gonzales, the shortage of natural gas due to the leak in Porter Ranch is to blame.

Molly Strawn
Staff Writer
Published April 20th, 2016