The California Experiment Lays the Path to Creating an Energy Efficient Economy

by Executive Director Daniel T. Colbert

Thirty five years ago, before anyone else got it, Art Rosenfeld got it. He understood that energy efficiency was going to be the most important cog in reinvented energy machinery not only for his own State of California, but for the world. Head of California's Energy Commission since its creation in 1974, Rosenfeld's work in reducing energy consumption has been so effective that while per capita energy usage in the United States has increased by 50%, California per capita usage has stayed flat. This data, dubbed the "Rosenfeld Curve" in his honor, has inspired other states and the federal government to achieve similar savings by imitating California's programs. California's energy efficiency programs have saved taxpayers a total of $56 billion since the Commission's inception.

America's founders understood the value in letting states experiment with their own ideas and programs. However, this value is only realized if successful programs are replicated elsewhere and failures abandoned. California's experiments in energy efficiency, while not always rewarding, have been successful in aggregate and should be adopted more broadly throughout the country. Meanwhile, three groups in California - the Institute for Energy Efficiency at UC Santa Barbara, the Center for Energy Efficiency at UC Davis and the Precourt Energy Efficiency Center at Stanford University - are leading the next charge on the energy efficiency front. Stay tuned for more California successes leading the nation.

Click here to read "The California Experiment", an article by Ronald Brownstein in the Atlantic which inspired this commentary.

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