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Two Web Sites Help Californians Save Energy

Screen shot of the 20% Solution web site

To help Californians reduce their energy use and the danger of rolling blackouts in the state, EETD researchers developed two new web sites:The 20% Solution, that can help Californians reduce energy use by 20% or more, and California Electricity System Status) which shows electrical demand in the state and the availability of generating resources to meet the demand.

The 20% Solution site identifies energy-efficiency measures and their predicted percentage savings. To use the site, residents simply identify their region of California, the size of their house or apartment, and whether they have air conditioning. The site then suggests 10 to 20 different ways to save energy this summer. The suggestions are in three parts: no-cost measures, low-cost measures, and more expensive measures.

"I am encouraged that the Department's national laboratories can play a substantial role in reducing the demand for energy in California, especially as the State faces severe energy supply challenges during the coming summer months," commented Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham in May, when the site was made public. "I would urge consumers to look seriously at The 20% Solution web site and take advantage of its recommendations whenever possible."

The 20/20 Rebate Program

California's 20/20 Rebate Program offered a 20% rebate on electricity bills from June through September 2001 for customers of Pacific Gas & Electric, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Southern California Edison who use at least 20% less electricity than they consumed in each of the four comparable months during 2000. The program is described in California Governor Grey Davis' Flex Your Power Campaign site.

"With the potential for weeks of rolling blackouts this summer," says EET Division Director Mark Levine, "we decided to focus the Lab's expertise on helping California residents identify simple, easy-to-implement ways to reduce energy use and avoid blackouts this summer."

"The suggestions in the web site are best-practice measures for dwellings in California, tailored to the diverse climate zones in the state," says Jon Koomey, head of the End-Use Energy Forecasting Group and leader of the site's development team. "Their effectiveness at reducing energy use has been demonstrated both by analytical models and by the real experiences of researchers and builders in real homes."

Following the site's advice cannot guarantee that a particular household or apartment will save 20% of its energy because every dwelling is different and similar buildings or appliances can vary in energy use. Savings measures, especially those that depend on human operators to implement daily, need to be applied consistently. Nonetheless, the measures described in the site have proven track records according to research at Berkeley Lab and other institutions.

Homeowners and apartment dwellers interested in customized suggestions on how to retrofit and remodel for energy efficiency can also consult two other web sites developed at Berkeley Lab, the Home Energy Saver and the Home Improvement Tool). These sites are designed for simple use, but require users to input specific information about their homes.

Real-time Electricity Web Site

The California Electricity System Status web site displays minute-to-minute changes in California's supply and demand balance.

"This site shows, in one place for the first time, California electricity demand, availability of power within the state, power imports and exports, and capacity out of service in real time," says EETD scientist Alan Meier, who headed the site's development team. "We expect that Californians will want to bookmark this site so that they can view the power situation this minute." "Using this site," he adds, "consumers will be able to respond to the electricity crisis by reducing their power consumption when it's most important." In addition to serving as a real-time management tool for energy users, the site will help consumers better understand the sources of the state's energy shortages—for example, how much capacity is offline at a given time, how much power needs to be imported from outside the state to make up for the shortfall, and how supply and demand change throughout the day. The site builds on information provided by the California Independent System Operator, the California Energy Commission, and other sources. Meier says that the development team will add additional information and resources to the sites, including links to energy efficiency sites, and additional background information on the meaning of the data. "This is one of a number of actions that Berkeley Lab is taking to inform Californians about energy shortages and what they can do to respond," says Mark Levine, Director of the Environmental Energy Technologies Division. Berkeley Lab researchers Katie Coughlin and Robert van Buskirk also worked on the development of the power use site.

— Allan Chen

For more information, contact:

  • Rich Brown
  • (510) 486-6996; fax (510) 486-4247
  • Alan Meier
  • (510) 486-4740; fax (510) 486-4673

The 20% Solution

California Electricity System Status

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