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Electricity Use in California: Past Trends and Present Usage Patterns
Energy Analysis Program
One of the most important lessons of the past 30 years of energy policy is that analyzing how people use energy, and how energy use changes over time, can yield important policy insights. Yet this lesson has largely been ignored in the popular discussion of the California electricity crisis. To help fill this information gap, this paper provides a general overview of electricity consumption and peak load in California, both by sector and end-use. We examine the growth in electricity demand between 1980 and 2000, as well as the composition of electricity end-uses in 1999. One of the main conclusions from this analysis is that electricity use in California in the 1990s did not grow explosively, nor was the amount of growth unanticipated. In both absolute and relative terms, growth in electricity use was greater in the 1980s than the 1990s. During the 1990s, most of the growth in electricity use has been in the buildings sector, particularly commercial buildings. In 2000, the building sector accounted for 2/3 of annual electricity consumption and 3/4 of the summer peak load.
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