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The California Energy Crisis: Long-and Short-Term Solutions

Researchers at EETD have worked with agencies in California and its utilities since the Division's beginnings in 1974 to help the state use energy more efficiently, reduce its energy bills, and thereby improve its productivity. During the current electricity crisis in the state, Division researchers have provided technical consultation to the California Energy Commission (CEC), the California Public Utilities Commission, the state legislature, and other agencies of the state, as well as worked on a number of formal projects funded by the CEC through its Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program.


Buildings account for 66% of California's annual electricity use and 72% of peak load, up from 62% and 70% respectively a decade ago. These increases represent 90% of the consumption load growth and 94% of peak load growth of all sectors in the State from 1990 to 2000. EETD's expertise in building technologies, the indoor environment, building codes and standards, and end-use energy efficiency issues is being brought to bear to help California address its energy challenges.

An active participant in the CEC's Public Interest Energy Research Program, EETD has also worked in the area of utility market transformation programs, which help migrate markets toward the purchase of more efficient technologies, and supported California's electricity reliability and peak load demand programs targeted to the summer of 2001. Laboratory researchers are also developing new tools targeted to help the State and its ratepayers achieve substantial electricity savings from this summer through 2004.

Contributions to California's 2001 Energy Programs

Technical Assistance for Peak Load Demand Reduction Programs: EETD has been supporting the CEC in its implementation of building energy standards updates, appliance efficiency regulations updates, and peak load demand reduction activities under the provisions of Assembly Bill 970. As part of our Department of Energy Federal Energy Management Program responsibilities, we have worked with federal agencies in the State to advise them of opportunities to participate in the AB970 peak load reduction program and have served as a linking pin to the Commission on their behalf.

Contributions to Summer 2001 Electricity Reliability: Through the Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology Solutions (CERTS), EETD is involved in several activities addressing the State's 2001 reliability challenges, including:

  • Installing and demonstrating CERTS reliability-enhancing software tools at California Independent System Operator (CAISO);
  • developing load participation programs planned by CAISO; and
  • reviewing congestion management by CAISO.

Energy Efficiency and Peak Load Savings Programs for California: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Director, through targeted funding from the University of California, is providing support to develop new, innovative energy-efficiency programs that can help the state reduce average and peak electricity load.

20% Savings Website: In March, 2001, Governor Davis issued an Executive Order to implement a rate reward program for conservation efforts by all electricity customers in the State to reduce consumption by at least 20% from June through September 2001, compared with the same four months in 2000. To assist ratepayers in achieving the 20% target in residences, EETD developed a website that identifies a large range of savings opportunities and measures that take into account both the climate zone and house type in which the user resides (savepower.lbl.gov).

Energy Supply and Demand Website: EETD has developed a web-based management tool for California's energy users: a site that shows the total demand for electricity in California and the supply available to meet that demand in real time (energycrisis.lbl.gov). See a related story.

Public Interest Energy R&D Development Contracts

EETD is one of the largest contractors to the California Energy Commission under its PIER program. These partnership projects with the State are structured as collaborations among labs, universities and industry for energy technologies R&D.

End-Use Energy Efficiency Projects

Instrumented Home Energy Rating and Commissioning: This project's purpose is to develop better tools and techniques to verify energy performance of residential buildings and building components, including insulation, envelope, and duct sealing.

Energy-Efficient Down-lights for California Kitchens: With lighting industry partners, EETD is working to develop a single, dimming, electronic ballast that controls multiple compact fluorescent down-lights to reduce the number of ballasts required for a typical kitchen layout by 75% to 80%, and to develop thermoplastic fixtures with high efficiency coatings to reduce production costs, increase system performance, and result in light output efficiency increases of 15% to 25% over existing CFL reflectors.

HVAC Distribution Systems in Commercial Buildings: Researchers are working to determine how leaky or poorly designed air-distribution systems waste energy used to condition air, and to develop methods to correct these problem systems. (See the next article.)

Next-Generation Power Management User Interface for Office Equipment: This project's goal is to design a new, standard interface for office equipment power management that will provide for power-saving features to be used more effectively, reducing energy use and cost for users of commercial office equipment and appliances.

Energy-Efficient Labs and Cleanrooms for High-Technology Industries: A recent project is targeted to high-technology industries to develop resources and tools to help cleanroom and laboratory facility designers and operators achieve a 50% reduction in energy.

Technical Analysis in Support of California Climate Action Registry: EETD is supporting the Commission in carrying out its statutory responsibility to provide defensible greenhouse gas emission metrics and methodologies under Senate Bill 1771, which established the California Climate Action Registry. This information will also be used to help the CEC better develop a long-term research plan in support of the implementation of SB 1771.

Advanced Energy Efficiency Technology for Commercial Buildings

Commercial buildings account for about one-third of all electricity consumption in California. This three-year research initiative, undertaken in coordination with 15 academic, industrial, and utility partners, will develop and deploy a set of energy-savings technologies, strategies and techniques, and improve processes for designing, commissioning, and operating commercial buildings, while improving health, comfort, and performance of occupants. The goal is to reduce electricity use in the California commercial sector by 22% (24,000 GWh) by 2015, while assuring that these savings are affordable and promote high-quality indoor environments. Five program elements include:

  • Life-Cycle Tools
  • Lighting, Envelope, and Daylighting
  • Low-Energy Cooling
  • Integrated Commissioning and Diagnostics
  • Indoor Environmental Quality

(See the following article, for more explanation of these programs.)

Electricity Reliability Research

With the help of the Electric Power Research Institute and the National Consortium for Electricity Reliability Technology Solutions (CERTS), of which Berkeley Lab is a member, EETD is undertaking an integrated set of research and technology development efforts to maintain reliability, enhance access to the electric infrastructure, and improve overall system efficiency. The technical goals of the program are to maintain system reliability at a loss-of-load probability of one-day-in-ten years, improve access to the system for multiple generator and load types, improve the ancillary services market, and improve overall system efficiency. The specific technical objectives of this effort are to:

  • develop consensus on research needs and approach, through an ongoing roadmapping effort;
  • develop real-time system management tools, including wide area monitoring systems;
  • evaluate the ability of distributed technologies in widespread use to improve system reliability;
  • develop advanced hydro-generation simulation tools; and
  • improve market rules for ancillary services.

EETD is undertaking three programs to assist the State and its ratepayers to realize substantial energy savings between 2001 and 2004.

This article summarizes major programs funded by California state agencies that are intended to improve the state's energy efficiency through technology R&D. Many other research programs carried out over the years by EETD, and currently in progress, will also have a substantial effect on the state's energy use. For example, EETD provides technical consultation to the Department of Energy on appliance standards, and to the DOE/EPA's EnergyStar program on a variety of energy-efficient technologies and designs. The Division works with the Federal Energy Management Program to improve the efficiency of federal facilities, including those in California, and to help develop guidelines for the federal procurement energy-efficient products like office machines. Its work with other DOE programs such as Rebuild America, Building America, and EnergySmart Schools, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development's PATH program helps communities in California and the rest of the nation build and rebuild energy-efficiently.

— Marcy Beck

For more information, contact:

  • Marcy Beck
  • (510) 486-6156; fax (510) 486-5454


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