The following essay is by Earl Killian, guest blogger at Climate Progress.


The California Energy Commission (CEC) has released its biennial integrated energy policy report [PDF]. The 301-page report looks at various issues confronting California and makes recommendations on how to address them. The issues include:


Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

  • Rising population leading to greater demand for energy (natural gas, petroleum, and electric power).
  • Rising natural gas demand while production remains flat, leading to a tight market and higher prices.
  • Increasing population away from the coast, increasing peak electric demand from air conditioning.
  • Increasing vehicle travel from population and sprawl.
  • Expected petroleum supply constraints (e.g. port facilities for increase imports) making it difficult to fuel future vehicle travel conventionally.
  • California’s AB 32 cap on greenhouse-gas emissions, requiring 1990 levels by 2020 (despite the population increase — a 30 percent decrease in absolute emissions).

Even though California is already one of the most efficient users of energy, the CEC is looking for further efficiency improvements, and although a 2006 legislative act mandates 20 percent renewable electricity by 2010, the report looks to 33 percent by 2020 to support California’s population growth. A few of the numerous specific recommendations from the report include:

  • Increase the efficiency levels of the building standards and combine them with on-site generation so that newly constructed buildings are net zero energy by 2020 for residences and 2030 for commercial buildings.
  • Enact appliance standards to improve the efficiency of appliances sold in California, specifically targeting standards to increase the efficacy of general service lighting.
  • Implement feed-in tariffs to encourage additional renewable energy connections to the grid.
  • Upgrade grid capacity to support greater renewable energy (e.g., add transmission lines).
  • Implement smart grid capabilities to support load management, greater distributed generation, and combined heat and power.
  • Adopt smart growth policies to address sprawl and reduce vehicle travel, energy, and greenhouse-gas emissions.
  • For vehicles, target vehicle efficiency, reduce the greenhouse gas content of fuels, and try to reduce vehicle miles traveled.


Many of the suggested actions are for other state agencies to act upon, so the report analyzes various scenarios to provide guidance. The efficiency-only scenarios are all projected to have large negative net costs, i.e., they save more than they cost (report page 60, PDF page 72), which is remarkable because California is already one of the most efficient first-world economies, but apparently there is more to wring from this stone. Renewable energy scenarios have large positive net costs, and the combination of greater efficiency and renewables has small positive net costs. Somewhere in the middle is the probable direction California will go.

This post was created for, a project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.