British Columbia's Crown-owned utilities company wants customers to cut their energy consumption to help power up the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

BC Hydro is looking for 210,000 British Columbians who will agree to conserve electricity usage by 10 per cent, or about 92 gigawatt-hours, to make up for the electricity needed for next year's Olympics.

The 2010 Games are expected to use about 80 gigawatt-hours of electricity, based on the electricity requirements for each Olympic venue. BC Hydro said Friday it's almost halfway to its goal, having signed up about 90,000 customers.

'Just think about the number of families in the province that will understand what conservation is.' — Bob Elton, BC Hydro president and CEO

"In the past, in a typical Olympic and Paralympic Games of this size, they would use about 600 diesel generators, they'd be on most of the time, and obviously a lot of greenhouse gas is consumed," said Bob Elton, CEO of BC Hydro.

"While there still will be generators, there won't be as many," he said. "We expect in the end we'll save 90 per cent of the greenhouse gases that were used previously to deliver electricity to the Games."

Elton said those who join the conservation initiative will receive tips on how to reduce electricity usage, like turning off computers when they're not in use or washing clothes in cold water.

He stressed the importance of establishing a conservation culture and said the 2010 Games have provided just that opportunity.

"Just think about what 210,000 people can do, working together. Just think about the number of families in the province that will understand what conservation is."

Those who join BC Hydro's energy conservation drive, a campaign that will make its way through 50 B.C. communities this summer, will be entered into a draw to win tickets to an Olympic event.

Organizers aim for 'greenest'

John Furlong, chief executive of Vancouver's Olympic organizing committee, known as VANOC, said the initiative gives British Columbians an opportunity to invoke real change.

"It's an idea that, if it grows and spreads and touches people, will make an enormous difference, will change the future for everybody," Furlong said.

VANOC has said it wants to make the 2010 Games the "greenest" in Olympic history.

Earlier this week, VANOC announced a sponsorship deal with B.C.-based Offsetters Green Technology Inc., which said it will invest in clean-energy projects such as hydrogen fuel cells to offset 110,000 tonnes of carbon emissions generated during the Games.

Organizers said the Vancouver Olympics will be the first to have an official carbon-offset supplier.

But the sponsorship deal, worth about $5 million, doesn't include an estimated 190,000 tonnes of "indirect" emissions, including flights to bring athletes, spectators and sponsors to Vancouver. Olympic organizers are encouraging athletes, spectators and sponsors to buy their own carbon offsets in addition to the sponsorship deal.