"Energy efficiency, Part 4: How does California do it so consistently and cost-effectively?"
California and its utilities have achieved remarkably consistent energy efficiency gains for three decades (see “Part 3: The only cheap power left“). How did they do it?
In part, a smart California Energy Commission has promoted strong building standards and the aggressive deployment of energy-efficient technologies and strategies — and has done so with support of both Democratic and Republican leadership over three decades. I talked to California energy commissioner Art Rosenfeld — a former DOE colleague and the godfather of energy efficiency — about what the state does, and here are some interesting details he offered, as discussed in “Why we never need to build another polluting power plant“:
Many of the strategies are obvious: better insulation, energy-efficient lighting, heating and cooling. But some of the strategies were unexpected. The state found that the average residential air duct leaked 20 to 30 percent of the heated and cooled air it carried. It then required leakage rates below 6 percent, and every seventh new house is inspected. The state found that in outdoor lighting for parking lots and streets, about 15 percent of the light was directed up, illuminating nothing but the sky. The state required new outdoor lighting to cut that to below 6 percent. Flat roofs on commercial buildings must be white, which reflects the sunlight and keeps the buildings cooler, reducing air-conditioning energy demands. The state subsidized high-efficiency LED traffic lights for cities that lacked the money, ultimately converting the entire state.
California adopted regulations so that utility company profits are not tied to how much electricity they sell. This is called “decoupling.” It also allowed utilities to take a share of any energy savings they help consumers and businesses achieve. The bottom line is that California utilities can make money when their customers save money. That puts energy-efficiency investments on the same competitive playing field as generation from new power plants (for more details, see California makes efficiency “business as usual”).
If you really want the specific strategies that California utilites use to save energy, here are the “approved program implementation plans” for 2006-2008 from one of the state’s largest utilities, Southern California Edison. You can click on each link to see just what SCE will do and what the expected results are:
- SCE2500 Appliance Recycling Program
- SCE2501 Residential Energy Efficiency Program
- SCE2502 Multifamily Energy Efficiency Program
- SCE2503 Home Energy Efficiency Surveys
- SCE2504 Integrated School-Based Program
- SCE2505 CA New Homes
- SCE2507 Comprehensive HVAC
- SCE2508 Retro-Commissioning
- SCE2509 Industrial Energy Efficiency Program
- SCE2510 Agricultural Efficiency Program
- SCE2511 Nonresidential Direct Installation
- SCE2512 Savings By Design
- SCE2513 Education Training and Outreach
- SCE2514 Sustainable Communities
- SCE2515 Statewide Emerging Technologies
- SCE2516 Statewide Codes and Standards Program
- SCE2517 Business Incentives and Services Program
- SCE2518 LGEAR
- SCE2519 Ventura County Partnership
- SCE2520 South Bay Partnership
- SCE2521 Bakersfield & County of Kern Energy Watch
- SCE2522 Santa Barbara Partnership
- SCE2523 Community Energy Partnership Program(Non-Resource)
- SCE2524 Community Energy Partnership Program (Resource)
- SCE2525 San Gabriel Valley Energy Efficiency Partnership Program
- SCE2526 California Community College IOU Partnership Program
- SCE2527 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation IOU Partnership Program
- SCE2528 Los Angeles County Partnership
- SCE2529 County of Riverside Partnership
- SCE2530 UC-CSU-PG&E-SCE-SCG-SDG&E Partnership
- SCE2531 Future IDEEA Solicitations
- SCE2532 Coin Operated Laundry Partnership Program
- SCE2533 Energy Efficiency Program Made Efficient
- SCE2534 Demand Response Emerging Tech
- SCE2535 80 Plus
- SCE2536 EE/DR Flex Program
- SCE2537 MAP Energy Efficiency Program
- SCE2538 Lighting Energy Efficiency with Demand Response
- SCE2539 Cool Change Program
- SCE2540 One-2-Five Energy Program
- SCE2541 Convenience Store and Service Stations EE
- SCE2542 Affordable Housing Energy Efficiency Alliance
- SCE2543 Design for Comfort: Efficient Affordable Housing
- SCE2544 California Preschool Energy Efficiency Program
- SCE2545 E-mail Based Energy Efficiency Program
- SCE2546 Lights for Learning CFL Fundraiser
- SCE2547 Aggregation of Housing Agencies for Energy Retrofit and Management Projects
- SCE2548 Southern California Home Performance Program
- SCE2549 Future InDEE Solicitations
- SCE2550 Innovative Pool PumpTechnology Delivers Radical Efficiency Gains
- SCE2551 Low Pressure R.O.
- SCE2552 NightBreeze EE Program
- SCE2554 Statewide Marketing and Outreach – Flex Your Power
- SCE2555 Statewide Marketing and Outreach- UTEEM
- SCE2556 Flex Your Power Rural Program
I am providing all of these program links just to make clear that you don’t get results of the magnitude California does without doing a whole lot of things in every sector of the economy.
The cost of efficiency programs has averaged 2 to 3 cents per avoided kilowatt hour, which is about one-fifth the cost of electricity generated from new nuclear, coal and natural gas-fired plants. And, of course, energy efficiency does not require new power lines and does not generate greenhouse-gas emissions or long-lived radioactive waste. While California is far more efficient than the rest of the country, the state still thinks that with an even more aggressive effort, it can achieve as much additional electricity savings by 2020 as it has in the past three decades.
It is time to stop building polluting power plants.