Baby, it's cold outside

OLYMPIA — Cold weather and a sudden spike in demand for power

in California have Gov. Gary Locke asking Washington residents and

businesses to shut down their computers and turn off holiday lights.

"It is important — it is critical

— that we continue to take steps to conserve energy in our region," he

said Monday in a statement.

Last week, Locke began asking residents to conserve electricity

as forecasters predicted the temperature gauge would plummet over the

weekend. While the weather was milder than expected, below-normal

temperatures were forecasted to last through Friday.

The above-normal demand for electricity in California has

helped make the problem worse, and some California power plants are shut

down for repairs. The state typically sells its electricity to northern states during

the winter.

The Northwest Power Planning Council has issued a "Stage 2

alert" warning for the region, which asks for voluntary cuts to electricity

consumption. A formal state Stage 2 alert would force businesses to conserve energy.

In his statement, Locke said state agencies have been ordered to

cut power consumption from 5 to 10 percent. He added that Department

of Ecology officials and representative of local air-pollution control

agencies and the Environmental Protection Agency are finding ways to

operate power plants within air-pollution restrictions.

Locke has also written a letter to Gov. Gray Davis of California,

asking him to help get idle power plants up and running.

State officials are asking residents and businesses to reduce power

consumption by 5 to 10 percent, especially during peak hours —

6:30-8:30 a.m. and 4-8 p.m. They suggested:

• Turning off lights in empty rooms.

• Turning off computers, radios and televisions when not in use.

• Setting thermostats back to 68 degrees.

• Using microwave ovens rather than electric stoves.

• Using washing and dishwashing machines at bedtime.

• Waiting until 8 p.m. to turn on outdoor Christmas lights.

• Businesses should limit display and advertising lighting and turn

off unneeded lights and equipment.

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