California's Clean Energy Leadership

A newspaper article published today challenges some of California's clean energy investments and indicates some confusion about who is administering most of the energy-saving and renewable energy programs in our state – it’s California's public and investor-owned utilities, not the state itself.
 
And thanks to them, we’ve reduced our electricity bills and pollution well below national averages. That's a key fact notably missing from the article.
 
Dozens of utilities across California are underwriting thousands of efforts to reduce energy waste that costs Californians literally billions of dollars annually. These incentives reach literally every sector of the economy, and have been coordinated for decades with regularly upgraded efficiency standards (launched in 1974 by then Governor Ronald Reagan) covering everything from flat screen TVs to office buildings.
 
What's especially troubling about today's article in the LA Times is that it relies mostly on a handful of anecdotes and a thoroughly refuted critic. For example, the article cites a cursory analysis by Georgetown University economist Arik Levinson, whose attacks on California’s energy efficiency leadership were never peer-reviewed and have been rebutted authoritatively by Stanford University's Professor Jim Sweeney and his colleagues. 

Most Californians are profoundly grateful that someone has been stepping forward with clean enegy investments to fight our state’s biggest economic and environmental threats, including climate change, toxic pollutants, water shortages and wildfires. Here are some of the results, as summarized in a recent NRDC report.   

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, ensuring that they share equitably in energy efficiency benefits; and 
  • Cut as much climate-warming carbon pollution as is spewed from 5 million cars annually.

California’s utilities and regulators would be the first to acknowledge that they can always do better. But let’s not lose sight of all that they have accomplished, at a time when statewide and national leadership were never more sorely needed. 

About the Authors

Ralph Cavanagh

Codirector, Energy program

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