Thursday, July 28, 2005

Comfort at odds with Conservation

It seems we are asked to cut back on our energy use in California just when we need it most--and that has some folks uncomfortable.

During the 2001 energy crisis, Californians stepped up and saved about 3,000 megawatts on hot summer days. That's enough to power nearly 2.3 million homes, according to the California Independent System Operator, or Cal-ISO, which controls 75 percent of the state power grid.

But electricity consumption is ratcheting up again, while conservation efforts appear to be sliding, energy officials say. Last summer, California used so much power during critical afternoon hours that the state surpassed the five-year-old record for peak demand use seven times.

Electricity use per capita jumped nearly 7 percent in 2004 vs. 2001, according to the California Energy Commission. That's about $52 worth of extra power per person last year.

In Orange County, our electric bills are creeping up at roughly the same rate, according to Southern California Edison, the county's primary energy provider.

"The energy crisis has slipped into the past and people aren't as conscious as they were of the benefits of conservation," said Gil Alexander, a spokesman for Edison, which serves 710,303 O.C. residents.