Monday, May 26, 2008

Summertime, and the livin's easy

Date: May 25-26
Mileage: 26.7 and 45.1
May mileage: 981.1
Temperature: 66 and 59

My housemate and I received our long-dreaded electricity bill this week. I actually shuddered a little when he asked me if I wanted to see it. But all of our energy conservation efforts have paid off. We came in well under $100 when we were bracing for $200-$250. I'm sure we're not alone in being pleasantly surprised by our bill. Since the April 16 avalanches wiped out the city's hydro power, Juneau has cut its electricity use by more than 35 percent. The utility sends me the stats every day so I can post them in the newspaper, and they're downright amazing. Scott at AEL&P even made a nice graph. On April 16, Juneau used 972 MW-hours of energy and burned 84,417 gallons of diesel. On May 25, we used 551 MW-hours of energy and burned 33,388 gallons of diesel. A new record low. There are a lot of factors that go into energy and fuel use, but I think Juneau serves as proof that large-scale energy conservation within entire communities actually is a viable dream - as long as the incentive is good enough. People are being hit hard in the pocketbook, and so they're riding their bikes more often, walking more places, watching less TV, and generally experiencing a different quality of life. I'm not in support of natural disasters ruining valuable infrastructure, but I have to admit I view this "energy crisis" as an interesting experiment in positive change.

It does help that the weather hit 60 for the first time all year and climbed right up into the 70s this week. That's about as warm as it gets in this part of the world, and I've been venturing outside in short sleeves and shorts, soaking my pasty, hasn't-seen-daylight-since-August pale skin in UV rays until I'm dehydrated, sun drunk and covered in patchy burns where I missed a layer or two of SPF 50. I promised myself I wouldn't complain about sun as long as I lived in Juneau, but I have to admit that I did complain, a little, today as I explained to my co-worker that I couldn't eat anything hot - spicy or temperature-wise - because of the sun blister spread across my bottom lip.

But life in Alaska is pretty lax when it's summer and warm and the weather is beautiful. The sun sets so late now that I almost don't need to bring my bike lights to work any more, and it's wonderful to just walk out the door in whatever I feel like wearing and ride to the office without the burden of piles of soaking wet clothing. I like to tack on a few extra miles in the evening so I can roll alongside the water where deep orange streaks of sunlight brush across the horizon, painting over any remnants of the blues.