[va-richmond-general] Re: Monday rally-Posted for Greg Moser

  • From: "Bill Rider" <brider@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: s.ridd@xxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 17 Feb 2007 19:54:50 -0500

Here is another approach to energy from the Washington Post today:
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In Energy Conservation, Calif. Sees Light
Progressive Policy Makes It a Model in Global Warming Fight
By Steven MufsonWashington Post Staff WriterSaturday, February 17, 2007;

At the height of the 1973 energy crisis, Arthur H. Rosenfeld had a
Disturbed about having to spend half an hour in line at a gas station one
Friday night, the particle physicist calculated that keeping his floor of
offices brightly lit all weekend as usual would consume the equivalent of
five gallons of gasoline. So Rosenfeld took what then seemed like a bold
step: He turned off the lights.
For 30 years, Rosenfeld has been one of the forces guiding California on a
mission of conservation. And today the state uses less energy per capita
than any other state in the country, defying the international image of
American energy gluttony. Since 1974, California has held its per capita
energy consumption essentially constant, while energy use per person for
the United States overall has jumped 50 percent.
California has managed that feat through a mixture of mandates,
regulations and high prices. The state has been able to cut greenhouse-gas
emissions, keep utility companies happy and maintain economic growth. And
in the wake of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report on
global warming, California serves as a model for other states seeking a
similar path to energy reduction. Now California is pushing further in its
effort to cut automobile pollution, spur use of solar energy and cap
greenhouse gases.
"California really represents what the rest of the country could do if it
paid a bit more attention to energy efficiency," says Greg Kats, managing
principal at Capital E, an energy and clean-technology advisory firm.
"California is the best argument we have about how to very
cost-effectively both reduce energy consumption and cut greenhouse gases.
And they've made money doing it." Kats estimates that the average
Californian family spends about $800 a year less on energy than it would
have without efficiency improvements over the past 20 years.
Today, as an energy consumer, California is more like thrifty Denmark than
the rest of the energy-guzzling United States. While the average American
burns 12,000 kilowatt-hours a year of electricity, the average Californian
burns less than 7,000 -- and that's counting renewable energy sources.
California has managed to cut its contributions to global warming, too.
Carbon dioxide emissions per capita in California have fallen by 30
percent since 1975, while U.S. per capita carbon dioxide emissions have
remained essentially level.
"If we're going to delay global warming, what we can do in a big hurry is
energy efficiency: better cars, better buildings, better industry," says
Rosenfeld, who is now a member of the California Energy Commission and who
last year won the Energy Department's $375,000 Enrico Fermi Award for his
contributions to national energy efficiency. "It's not the whole story.
But I think it's at least half the story."
California does have natural advantages. The climate is mild in much of
the state, and its high-tech and service sectors are less energy-intensive
than older, heavy industry in some other states. However, even accounting
for those differences, California has vastly improved its energy
efficiency. The growing population and economy are still driving up
electricity demand about 1 percent a year, enough to require a new
power-generating station every couple of years. But if the state had not
changed its pre-1974 trend of electricity consumption, by today it would
have needed the equivalent of one nuclear plant every eight miles between
San Diego and San Francisco, Rosenfeld says.
The reason for California's success is no secret: Electricity there is
expensive, so people use less of it. Thanks to its use of pricey
renewables and natural gas and its spurning of cheap coal, California's
rates are almost 13 cents a kilowatt hour, according to the Energy
Information Administration. The other most-energy-frugal states, such as
New Jersey and New Hampshire, charge about 12 cents and 14 cents a
kilowatt hour, respectively. Hawaii, which relies on oil-fired plants,
tops EIA's list at about 21 cents.
"If the history of energy consumption in the U.S. has taught us anything,
it is that cost drives conservation," says Chris Cooper, executive
director of the Network for New Energy Choices.
Three of the nation's most profligate users of energy -- Wyoming, Kentucky
and Alabama -- have one thing in common: low prices. Their electricity
prices range from 5.25 cents a kilowatt hour to 7.06 cents, according to
the EIA.
"What's dirt cheap tends to get treated like dirt," Rosenfeld says.
The District, also a wasteful user of energy, has a rate of 10.70 cents a
kilowatt hour, only after recent rate increases. Virginia charges average
6.78 cents, and Maryland is at 10.03 cents.
Besides high prices, California has long-standing mandates. In 1974, the
state enacted its first building standards for energy efficiency.
In 1976, the governor, Jerry Brown, was looking for a way to make good on
his pledge to stop the construction of the proposed one gigawatt Sundesert
nuclear plant in Southern California. The answer turned out to be
refrigerators -- more efficient refrigerators.
Brown learned, in a meeting with Rosenfeld, who by that time had turned
his full attention toward promoting energy efficiency, that California's
refrigerators were using the equivalent of five Sundesert plants. A modest
improvement in their efficiency would more than offset the need for new
power plants, Rosenfeld told him. So the state adopted stringent appliance
standards -- before the federal government did -- and staved off
construction of the Sundesert plant. The change in California's
refrigerators has saved energy equal to all the hydroelectric power
produced nationwide, Rosenfeld says.
Next, California adopted an innovative approach to utility regulation
called decoupling so that the utilities' profits were no longer linked to
simply increasing sales.
Before then, electric utilities made more money when people bought more
electricity. So a Midwest utility gave away energy guzzling light bulbs;
in California and elsewhere, electric utilities promoted electric stoves
or electric water heaters, appliances that run more cleanly and
efficiently on natural gas. In December 1973, Rosenfeld had called Pacific
Gas & Electric to challenge a newspaper ad the utility was running that
said: "Don't mess with the thermostat. You'll use more gas heating your
house in the morning than you'll save overnight." Rosenfeld asked the
company's research head if he kept his coffee on the stove all night to
avoid reheating it in the morning.
In 1982, the state Public Utilities Commission came up with the decoupling
idea that would allow utility profits to grow while sales declined. It set
separate targets for utility revenue and electricity usage; excess revenue
would be returned to consumers; a shortfall in revenue would be added to
the next year's consumer bills. Greater efficiency could boost profit
margins. Rates are now reviewed every six to 12 months instead of every
three years. (A similar approach for natural gas utilities had been
adopted in 1978.)
The power companies quickly altered their focus. Now, Rosenfeld says, the
state and the utilities spend $700 million a year to promote energy
efficiency. "It's cheaper than building power plants," he says. At the
moment, the program has expired but is up for renewal.
California remains the only state to have adopted decoupling, though
proposals are pending in seven states.
"There's an element of stability of revenues that is very attractive,"
said Steve Kline, a vice president at Pacific Gas & Electric. "We don't
have those huge swings that other companies do if there is an incredibly
cold or hot winter." And that, he added, "is viewed favorably in the
financial community."
Some utilities that favor decoupling are getting support from their
traditional foes: environmentalists. Ralph Cavanagh, senior attorney for
the Natural Resources Defense Council in California, has filed written
testimony on behalf of Idaho Power Co., which is asking that state's
Public Utilities Commission to implement the practice.
"We have to break the link between their financial health and their
electricity and natural gas sales," says Cavanagh. "If their financial
health is tied to increasing sales, they're unlikely to be efficiency
Energy-efficiency targets are also built into California's solar promotion
program. To qualify for a $2,000 rebate, homeowners must show that their
homes beat building standards for energy efficiency by 15 percent or more.
Often, a change in the color of a home's roof from black to white can save
as much electricity as the new solar panels generate, Rosenfeld says.
Many of these techniques grow out of work Rosenfeld did at the Center for
Building Science at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which he
founded in 1975. Over 20 years, the lab developed a variety of
energy-efficiency technologies, including electronic ballasts that led to
compact fluorescent lamps and a coating for glass that allows light in but
blocks heat from either entering (during summer) or escaping (during
But much of the motivation remains economic. The state's disastrous
experiment in electricity deregulation -- deregulating supplies while
capping retail prices -- led to a supply crisis and rolling blackouts in
2001. Soon, prices rose; PG&E sought bankruptcy protection.
Many manufacturers complain that the high electricity prices make the
state an unappealing place to do business. Since 2001, California has lost
375,000 manufacturing jobs, a 19.9 percent drop that slightly exceeded the
nationwide decline of 17 percent. Some firms -- such as Buck Knives, with
250 jobs, or bottle manufacturer Bomatic, with 100 jobs -- moved to states
such as Idaho or Utah, where they said expenses, including energy, were
Gino DiCaro, a spokesman for the California Manufacturers and Technology
Association, says manufacturing investment is also "stalled" because of
uncertainty about how the new legislation authorizing limits on greenhouse
gases will affect energy costs.
"We've lost a lot of manufacturing jobs and we can't replace them," says
DiCaro. While it's hard to blame the state's high energy costs alone, he
says, "we know that . . . energy is one of the largest portions of a
manufacturer's operating budget."
But for those homeowners and businesses staying in California, the high
prices have provided a big incentive for greater efficiency.
Laura Scher, chief executive of Working Assets, a wireless, long distance
and credit card company that donates part of its revenue to socially
progressive organizations, said she checked her home's meter every week
during the electricity crisis in the summer of 2001 and unplugged her
family's second refrigerator. "Part of it is our prices got really high,"
she said. But she added that California's habits go back much further.
"It's sort of a culture to be an energy conserver here," she said.
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