Why is my energy bill so high? Why did it spike that month? How do I cut the cost of my bill without sacrificing comfort?
AEL&P looks to increase energy efficiency 102412 NEWS 1 Capital City Weekly Why is my energy bill so high? Why did it spike that month? How do I cut the cost of my bill without sacrificing comfort?

Photo By Sarah Day / Capital City Weekly

Alec Mesdag is the new energy services specialist with AEL&P.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Story last updated at 10/24/2012 - 5:54 pm

AEL&P looks to increase energy efficiency

Why is my energy bill so high? Why did it spike that month? How do I cut the cost of my bill without sacrificing comfort?

These are all questions Alec Mesdag at Alaska Light Electric & Power can help answer.

Mesdag is the new energy services specialist for AEL&P - a new position created specifically for helping people reduce their energy consumption and increase energy efficiency.

"There's a couple of ways of looking at it," Mesdag said. "One of the many reasons I'm here is just to be a resource to the community. To (help people) learn more about how to use energy more efficiently or just save money on a bill. Sometimes it's hard to understand why a utility would be interested in helping people reduce the amount of electricity they're purchasing."

But from the utility's perspective, Mesdag said, it's important for people to understand that Juneau's hydro capacity is limited. If energy use by all sectors of its consumers were to increase rapidly, it would cause problems not just for AEL&P, but also the community.

Some of the questions he's already been getting are ways consumers can reduce their bills.

"They can become more efficient by replacing light bulbs," Mesdag said. "They can reduce their total energy use here to do that regardless which form of energy they use. There are things they can do to conserve without impacting quality of life."

Some of those include replacing light bulbs with incandescents, taking shorter showers, using programmable thermostats, install low-flow faucets and shower heads, improve the quality of insulation, reduce the number of hot loads run through the washing machine.

"A number of these are totally valuable whether or not you own your own home," he said.

Other ways to conserve comes down to management and behavior, Mesdag said, including turning off the lights, keeping the refrigerator door closed, and wearing extra layers of clothing when it's cold.

"Some of these sound silly, everyone knows how to do it," he said.

Mesdag can also help commercial customers. He's already done a couple of building walk-throughs to make recommendations. The biggest thing he finds is that energy systems don't always work well with one another - and they function differently depending upon the building and who's using it.

"One thing I learned in construction is there are so many funky things out there," he said. "With the systems, how they function in a building is unique. How people use them is unique."

Mesdag said it's crucial for commercial businesses to understand their systems in order to control costs.

He is also reaching out to different energy committees, and seeing if there are ways to build more outreach.

"I think people are really energy conscious here, especially after the avalanche," Mesdag said. "It's great to have such a clean resource, but we don't want it to be out of control. There's a timetable to develop new resources."

Mesdag is originally from Juneau, and earned a degree in environmental science from Oregon State University. He most recently worked for an electrical contractor in Portland, Ore., which focused on conservation and energy efficiency projects like solar design and installation.

For energy questions, contact Mesdag at 463-6303 or

Sarah Day is the editor of Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at