California's goal will be harder to meet, and cap and trade alone may not provide all the necessary emission cuts. Nor can the ARB "do it all by themselves," Dean says.
The California Energy Commission has also been tasked with helping the state meet its climate-change goals. Already, the CEC (set up in 1975 in the wake of the nation's first oil crisis) balances new energy demands—such as screening new power plants on the basis of at least 23 different impacts, ranging from economics to air quality—with efficiency efforts. "We are to promote energy efficiency," says Thom Kelly, acting chief deputy director at the CEC. "We have an environmentally driven energy policy."
Earlier this year the commission released new standards for televisions with screens sized 1.5 meters and smaller that will apply to all sets sold after January 1. As it stands, such televisions—in conjunction with digital recording devices, DVD players and cable boxes—consume a full 10 percent of the electricity used by the average California household, or 8,772 gigawatt-hours annually.
"We're down from 450 watts per television to 125 to 200 watts per TV," Kelly says. "We're estimating that we'll save about $700 million a year just in energy costs."
In fact, the new standards should save roughly 6,515 gigawatt-hours of electricity by 2013 when fully implemented—the same amount of electricity used to power the cities of Anaheim, Burbank, Glendale and Palo Alto. The CEC is also planning to phase out incandescent light bulbs in the state and will tackle efficiency standards for chargers in coming years. "Per capita use of electricity is pretty much the same over several decades in California, even though there are more electrical appliances and gadgets around the house," Kelly notes. "But because all these things [starting with refrigerators] got more efficient, it's been level."
And home-owners and builders will soon face new codes aimed at improving the energy efficiency of homes themselves, such as requirements for double-paned windows and certain levels of insulation. In fact, retrofitting old homes to meet such standards—many homes in California were built prior to 1950—may be the most productive way to reduce emissions. "The most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is by doing some of these retrofits," LAO's Roberts says. "How can we do it at a scale that is actually going to be beneficial?"
The CEC also has a mandate to prioritize new electricity-generating projects that either improve the efficiency of producing that power or are derived from renewable resources, such as the sun, wind and hot rocks (geothermal). Partially as a result, a host of renewable energy projects have broken ground in the Golden State in the past two years, including a solar-thermal power plant from BrightSource Energy at Ivanpah on October 27 that will produce 392 megawatts. "Regulators in the 1980s were dragged kicking and screaming into renewable energy," says Charles Ricker, senior vice president of business development at BrightSource. "Now regulators are leading the charge."
In fact, another agency is specifically tasked with leading that charge: the California Public Utilities Commission is responsible by law for ensuring that publicly owned utilities in the state get 20 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by the end of this year (although the utilities have until 2013 to prove that they have complied) and 33 percent by 2020. "On average, we're at 13 percent," Roberts says. "We're not there yet."