With a growing population, mandated cuts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to ensure reasonably priced energy for our growing economy, San Diego faces the challenge of developing long term, secure, clean energy sources to maintain our quality of life. We also have opportunities to capitalize on San Diego’s history as a leader in the clean technology field by promoting energy efficient and renewable energy technologies and conservation practices.
Fossil Fuels Still Rule San Diego’s Energy Supply
The Risk of Relying on Natural Gas
Natural gas prices have been volatile in recent years, and will likely climb significantly in the future. Steep increases and fluctuations in price make it difficult for our local businesses and residents to plan and budget resources. In addition to the uncertainty of price, dependence on fossil fuels leaves San Diego more vulnerable to interrupted supply due to political situations or natural disasters, since the bulk of our natural gas is imported. The burning of fossil fuels is also a precursor to climate change, which may threaten our already vulnerable water supply, and increase fire hazards in the county.
How Do More People Consume Less Energy?
Although San Diegans use slightly less energy per capita than the average Californian, the region’s total electricity consumption from 2007 is expected to increase by 20% by 2030 because of our growing population. And under a business as usual scenario, by 2020 greenhouse gas emissions in the region are projected to be 26% greater than 2006 levels for our region. In the same time period, new state legislation (AB32, SB 375) requires deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
A first step in preparing for our long term energy security is reducing per capita energy consumption.
SANDAG has recommended a 20% reduction in per capita electricity usage by 2030 in order to keep total regional electricity consumption flat to meet mandated targets as our population and economy grow. This approach follows the state’s “preferred loading order” to meet increasing demand for electricity: decrease demand by increasing energy efficiency and conservation, meet new generation needs first with renewable resources, and second with fossil fuels.
State's Preferred Loading Order
Source: SANDAG, July 2009
Energy Solutions : More Energy Efficient Options in Transportation, Land Use and Water Supply Choices
The largest opportunity to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions comes from the on-road transportation sector, which makes up 46% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the county. To reduce our energy consumption in the transportation sector, we will need to research and advance solutions that promote fuel efficient cars, alternative fuels, ridesharing, and increased public transit ridership.
Potential Emissions Reductions by Sector to Meet AB 32 Targets
Source: Epic, 2006
Better land use and transportation planning should also be considered for San Diego. Segregated land use, where people must drive long distances from where they live to get to work, schools or other services, encourages dependence on cars, and results in more fuel consumption. Smart growth, which concentrates development and provides alternatives to cars such as walking, biking, car pooling or public transit, all of which are less energy intensive than single occupancy vehicle trips, will likely be a part of the solution to reducing per capita energy consumption.
Improving water efficiency and conservation efforts could save San Diego 767 kWh, enough electricity to power 118,000 households for a year.
Source: NRDC/Pacific Institute, 2004
The next largest category of emissions is electricity and natural gas consumption, the bulk of which come from the residential sector. Energy efficient products, building standards and other technologies such as “smart” meters, and programs which incentivize consumers to reduce consumption all need to be considered.
One critical area of opportunity for San Diego to reduce home electricity and natural gas consumption is the nexus between water conservation and energy conservation. Dishwashers, clothes washers and showers are the largest consumers of energy per unit of water in the household water cycle. For every gallon of hot water conserved inside the home, residents also save money on their energy bill.
Renewable Energy: Naturally Replenishing
Renewable energy resources represent a significant and growing opportunity for our region. Wind and biomass currently provide the lion’s share of renewable energy, but solar is rapidly growing in the region.
San Diego boasts 2,262 solar roofs-more than any city in California- that together can generate 19.4 megawatts of electricity – roughly equivalent to the power used by 12,000 homes
Source: Environment California, 2009
But the development of renewable energy in our region is not without questions. Debates about how to incorporate distributed generation (small-scale power sources, like rooftop solar, that are close to the entities they serve) remain. The siting of large scale renewable sources, such as wind farms or large solar installations, and transmission lines in or near undeveloped areas has been controversial in the past. Trade-offs between cost effectiveness, environmental impact, and energy reliability need to be carefully considered when the region contemplates renewable energy development.
The Green Job Potential of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Setting an aggressive target of 50 percent renewable energy and 1.5 percent annual energy efficiency gains for California could result in half a million new jobs with over $100 billion in payrolls over 40 years.”
Source: UC Berkeley, 2009
While some jobs may be lost as we transition to a more energy efficient and renewable energy future, recent state level studies show that renewable energy generation is more job-intensive than the traditional fossil fuel supply chain, captures more benefits within the local economy, and reduces vulnerability to uncertain global energy markets. In addition, integrating energy efficiency measures into renewable energy jobs could increase job benefits by almost tenfold.
Job creation and increased gross domestic product from installation of smart grid technologies are estimated to be $28 million annually in San Diego County.
Source: EPIC, 2006
More work needs to be done to document and evaluate these benefits specifically for the San Diego region.
Equinox Center Priorities
- Research and advance solutions that promote investment and incentives for conservation and energy efficiency to garner needed per capita reduction in energy consumption
- Further evaluate and document the links between energy efficiency, renewable energy, and jobs for the region.
- Support the integration of energy considerations into land use, transportation and water planning decisions
- Promote the competitiveness of our region by identifying policies that will decrease price volatility of energy and fuels in our region, and increase energy security.
- Research the pros and cons and costs/benefits of various renewable energy sources and alternative fuels.
- Energy Pathways for the California Economy, Roland-Holst and Kahrl, 2009.
- EPIC, San Diego County Greenhouse Gas Inventory, 2008.
- EPIC, San Diego Smart Grid Study Final Report, 2006.
- SANDAG, Regional Energy Strategy Update Draft, July 2009.
- Energy Down the Drain: The Hidden Costs of California’s Water Supply.
Natural Resources Defense Council and Pacific Institute. 2004.