Governor and legislature called to implement immediate power solutions

Energy efficiency and renewable energy offer cheaper, faster and cleaner solutions

provided by Energy Foundation


Hal Harvey, president of the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation, has called on Governor Gray Davis and the California State Legislature to take five immediate steps to fix the short-term energy crisis and stave off rolling blackouts this spring and summer.

    “We have the means to fix this problem now, not next year,” said Harvey. “The five power plants currently in the pipeline are needed, but these 2200 megawatts may or may not be online in time for this summer, and will not be enough on their own. Launching a full-throttle campaign to reduce demand by installing energy efficiency technology, from real-time metering to air conditioners, can get us the rest of the way there and prevent blackouts.”

    Harvey said that the state needs bold leadership, clear vision and immediate action to prevent economic disaster this summer. In a letter to the Governor and legislative leaders, Harvey called for five specific steps to reduce demand.

    “Energy efficiency is not energy conservation. We are not asking customers to swelter in the dark this summer. We have the technology to accomplish huge reductions in demand for not only this summer, but next summer and beyond. We can save California from not just an energy crisis but an economic disaster, if and only if we move on it today, not tomorrow or next week,” said Harvey.

    Harvey's proposal specifically calls for:

I. Demand reduction by big customers through the installation of real-time meters


    Real-time meters show big commercial and industrial customers the actual price of power during the day, not an average rate for the month. Big customers with sophisticated energy managers will be able to reduce power demand in response to high prices, resulting in lower costs for all Californians. The California Energy Commission estimates that installing 40,000 meters could reduce demand by 2,000 megawatts this summer.

II. An aggressive campaign to install energy efficient technology, such as air conditioners, refrigerators and light bulbs


    While California utilities are administering reasonably effective efficiency programs, more must be done, and now. A crash campaign must be funded to boost sales of efficient technologies such as going door-to-door to replace inefficient air conditioners in low-income neighborhoods. Replacing 400,000 air conditioners (a typical year's sales) with high-efficiency units would reduce demand by 600 megawatts. More savings will come from refrigerators, motors, lighting and many other sources.

III. Maximize the use of renewable and cogeneration power


    The independent power suppliers that provide 30 percent of the state's power are on the brink of bankruptcy, due to the inability of PG&E and SCE to pay their bills. The state Department of Water Resources should take over these contracts to ensure their continuing viability. Plus, the DWR should sign long-term contracts for 1,500 megawatts of new wind power the cheapest, fastest and cleanest source of new supply. Finally, the state should adopt a Renewables Portfolio Standard of 20 percent by 2010, as a longer-term solution.

IV. Adopt rate structures that encourage efficiency


    Assembly member Joe Nation has proposed an “inclining block” rate structure, where customers who use much more than a baseline amount of power would pay higher rates for that excess consumption. This is an excellent idea that can be adopted immediately by the Public Utility Commission. It would be an effective companion to the Governor's “20/20” plan of providing rebates to customers who drop their consumption by 20 percent.

V. Expedite installation of clean "micropower" technologies, while ensuring that diesel generators don't threaten public health

    Micropower systems, like photovoltaics, microturbines, fuel cells and small wind turbines, are increasingly cost effective and can be installed very quickly. Dirty diesel generators pollute at rates 100 times worse than large natural-gas plants, and can seriously add to summertime smog problems.

    “We cannot afford to wait. Nor can we afford to abandon the long proven means to energy independence,” Harvey said. “Until deregulation, California had been an international leader in developing energy efficient and renewable energy technologies. If we continue to ignore those means to energy independence, we will not only face continuing crises in California, but a disaster of national proportions in the future.”