Greetings all, thanks for tuning in! If you are interested in energy issues in San Diego, you’ve probably run across the San Diego Regional Energy Office at some point over the last 10 years or so. SDREO has been a central player in discussions of how best to promote a cleaner and more sustainable energy future for our region, our state and beyond. We do workshops on a variety of energy topics, administer incentive programs that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency for homes and businesses here, and generally provide unbiased information about energy issues. We’ve recently changed our name to the California Center for Sustainable Energy to better reflect what it is we do and where we plan to go.

These are very interesting times for the energy sector. Clean energy is going mainstream — it’s about time! This is happening for any number of reasons: from the recognition of the need for diversity of energy supply, to increasing concerns about climate change to the basic economics of energy in an evolving marketplace.

Lots of creative people are looking at energy in new ways, on both the supply side (i.e. how to generate electricity more efficiently and using renewable resources) to the demand side (how to make the most of the energy we do have by using it more efficiently). This new, creative thinking (and funding for new ideas — venture capital is way up in the energy sector) is bound to have positive economic and environmental impacts for the long term in our state and beyond.

In California, we’ve been blazing trails for quite a while. Our state emits just over half of the CO2 per capita as the U.S. average. Since we are the most populous state, it’s still a lot of carbon. But on a relative basis we are not doing too badly, at least as compared to the rest of the nation. Here’s a nice graph that shows what I mean:

After 1975 or so, per capita energy consumption has remained essentially flat in California, while it has continued to rise in the rest of the country. Much of the credit for this goes to California’s advanced appliance and building efficiency standards, which have been way ahead of federal standards. Our mild weather helps here — many of us don’t need much heating or cooling compared to Minnesota or Florida, respectively. But even so, stemming the growth of electricity consumption per capita is a fantastic achievement and one that speaks well to the effectiveness of our public policy.

At the same time, as CA’s population grows inland — where A/C is required equipment for much of the year — we have a challenge ahead of us to keep up this trend. And the above is “per capita,” not absolute consumption. So, as the population grows, so does CA’s total consumption and resulting carbon emissions. The ambitious goals for “absolute” emissions reductions set by the governor and Legislature for massive carbon reductions will not be achievable without major changes in the equipment we use, and likely in how we organize our lives.

An increasing share of carbon emissions comes from cars (53 percent of San Diego’s CO2 emissions are from transportation, according to a new study by the city), so clearly there’s a big area for improvement.

So — and here’s where I would like to go with this discussion — public policy is only one piece of the puzzle. Another component is individual action. I would like to invite folks to talk about their experiences with energy efficiency, conservation and small-scale generation. What efforts have you made to reduce carbon-based energy consumption? Have you been satisfied with those compact fluorescent lamps? Is a solar electric system in your future? What would it take for you to consider a solar hot water system? Have dual-pane windows improved your quality of life? Is line-drying your clothes a nostalgic activity or a real option for you? Let’s hear about all your actions and ideas — a contest for the most creative and most effective!

— ANDREW McALLISTER

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