California’s 40 years of remarkable success in using energy efficiency to avoid dirty power generation and save utility customers billions, as detailed in a new NRDC fact sheetreleased this week, offers valuable lessons to help meet President Obama’s climate action plan.
Cutting energy waste by improving the efficiency of America’s homes and businesses — and the appliances and electronic devices within them — is essential to reduce the nation’s need to build new power plants and to cut dangerous emissions from existing ones. Power plants are the largest source of America’s carbon pollution, and the president is ordering his administration to take steps to help curb it.
California’s energy efficiency achievements over the past four decades can serve as a model for how to avoid those dirty emissions. And, as we know well in California, investing in energy efficiency programs to allow us to do more with the same or less energy — such as upgrading our lighting or weatherizing our homes — also costs less than half the price of fossil-fuel alternatives. Efficiency also drives innovation and creates jobs.
NRDC is publishing a new fact sheet that highlights the enormous economic and pollution reduction benefits California has reaped thanks to its longstanding and bipartisan commitment to energy efficiency. Our paper also busts some of the myths about the reasons behind the state’s significant progress.
Efficiency’s huge benefits
California’s energy efficiency efforts over the past several decades have helped:
- Save residents and businesses more than $65 billion
- Make household electric bills 25 percent lower than the national average
- Create a more productive economy, generating twice as much economic output for every kilowatt-hour consumed compared to the rest of the country
- Decrease utility bills for millions of low-income households
- Cut as much climate-warming carbon pollution as is spewed from 5 million cars annually
Despite the state’s clear success, some naysayers incorrectly claim that it all would have happened even without our efficiency policies. But California policymakers and utilities know the facts: that’s why they continue to invest around $1 billion every year to expand on the state’s success with energy efficiency.
Utilities are required to turn first to energy efficiency to “keep the lights on” before investing in more expensive sources like natural gas-fired power plants. And the state sets standards for new buildings and appliances to minimize energy waste. Thanks in part to these efforts, California’s per capita electricity consumption has remained nearly flat over the past 40 years, while the rest of the United States increased by 50 percent.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
California’s efficiency success can’t be “wished away”
Nonetheless, there are those who try to “wish away” California’s efficiency success by trying to prove that energy efficiency isn’t the only factor responsible for our flat per-capita consumption. Everyone knows multiple factors affect electricity use, but energy efficiency is a critical one. And just as you don’t have to be an only child for your parents to love you, efficiency doesn’t need to be the only contributor for it to represent an invaluable example to other states looking to cut utility bills and curb pollution.