California’s Energy Efficiency Success Story: $90 Billion in Utility Bill Savings, Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs, and 40+ Polluting Power Plants Avoided

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Pat Remick, 202-289-2411, premick@nrdc.org; Elizabeth Heyd, 202-289-2424, eheyd@nrdc.org; or Jeff Benzak, 202-513-6248, jeff@e2.org

California’s Energy Efficiency Success Story: $90 Billion in Utility Bill Savings, Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs, and 40+ Polluting Power Plants Avoided

But Major Ramp-Up Still Needed to Meet the State’s Long-Term Climate and Energy Goals

SAN FRANCISCO - California’s 40-year commitment to energy efficiency has saved Californians $90 billion on their utility bills, created hundreds of thousands of efficiency jobs, and will have avoided the pollution from 41 power plants by the end of the next decade, according to a new report published today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). However, the report cautions that a major efficiency ramp-up is necessary to meet the state’s long-term climate and energy goals.

“Energy efficiency is a major success story for California – saving customers billions on their energy bills over the last four decades. But the state needs to double down on policies and programs that encourage smarter energy use to clean the air for all Californians and create local clean energy jobs,” said Lara Ettenson, one of the report’s authors and NRDC’s director of California Energy Efficiency Policy.   

The report, “California’s Golden Energy Efficiency Opportunity: Ramping Up Success to Save Billions and Meet Climate Goals,” details the numerous benefits Californians have enjoyed thus far – including monthly household electricity bills that are $20 less per month ($240 per year) than the national average – thanks to the state’s energy-saving programs, building codes, and appliance standards. The report also shows significant work remains in order to tackle California’s climate and energy goals, and save residential, business, industrial, and agricultural consumers even more money while continuing to stimulate the economy.

“Californians know energy efficiency means jobs and cost savings,” said Bob Keefe, executive director of E2, which is an NRDC affiliate. “We can still reach the state’s goal of doubling our energy efficiency savings by 2030 – but only if our lawmakers and policymakers in Sacramento move more aggressively to advance better energy efficiency policies and programs.”

Without a substantial acceleration and improvements to the existing implementation process, the current trajectory would fall far short of Governor Jerry Brown’s goal to double energy efficiency savings by 2030. Efficiency programs—along with new building codes and appliance and equipment standards—would have to save enough energy over the next 15 years to cut the state’s total electricity needs by almost one-third and its natural gas use by more than 10 percent, according to the NRDC and E2 report.

“We are on track to surpass the energy efficiency savings necessary to help meet the state’s 2020 goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels, but we have a long way to go to meet our climate and efficiency targets for 2030 and beyond,” Ettenson said.

The report, which is an update of a report NRDC published five years ago, includes these additional key findings:

  • Thanks to efficiency, Californians’ utility bill savings totaled nearly $90 billion at the end of 2013 (the last complete data set available) and NRDC estimates they will save an additional $2 billion through 2015 –  $85 per average household in this year alone; 
  • California’s efficiency success has avoided the amount of power needed from 30 power plants thus far and is expected to avoid another 11 power plants’ worth of electricity over the next decade because cutting energy waste reduces the need to generate power from fossil fuel power plants; 
  • Efficiency employment grew by 15 percent from 2002 to 2012. Currently more than 300,000 positions, or nearly 70 percent of California’s green economy jobs, are related to improving energy efficiency in buildings alone. In addition, money saved on utility bills is redirected toward other goods and services (like restaurants and retail), producing even more jobs (1.5 million from 1972-2006 according to one study);
  • Since 2003, energy-cutting programs, building codes, and appliance standards saved enough electricity to power more than half of California’s homes for one year, saved enough natural gas to equal the annual consumption of more than 2 million homes, and slashed 30 million metric tons of carbon-dioxide pollution, equal to the annual emissions of 6 million cars;
  • Appliance standards have saved more than 10,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity since 2003 (enough to power 2 million homes for one year) and new homeowners will save $6,000 over 30 years for a house constructed in accordance with the 2013 building energy code compared to the previous code; and
  • Public investment in nearly 20 research, development, and demonstration projects is expected to yield almost $10 billion in energy savings between 2005 and 2025, or nearly $450 for every $1 invested.

Along with describing the many benefits to California, the report examines challenges with the current energy efficiency framework for customer-funded programs (which include assistance for weatherizing homes or help for businesses to manage their energy use), minimum energy-saving standards for appliances and equipment, and improved building codes to cut energy waste. It also includes detailed recommendations to improve upon the state’s groundbreaking efforts and myriad successes.

Thanks in part to the state’s success with energy efficiency, California is planning to significantly exceed its power plant emissions reductions requirements under the federal Clean Power Plan. The report also contains some case studies of California businesses where energy efficiency has been a factor in their success.

The report is here. Lara Ettenson’s blog can be found here. More information on clean energy jobs in California can be found here. A video showing a California energy efficiency company included in the report in action is available here. Report infographics and graphs are available.

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The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists, served from offices in New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Beijing.

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