Great Graphic: California and Electricity

This Great Graphic, which shows the electricity consumption per household in California and the rest of the United States was posted on the Wonk Blog of the Washington Post. Californians use about a third less electricity than others in the country.  

Conventional wisdom has tended to emphasize a range of conservation measures, including high retail prices, which have encouraged greater efficiencies.  

While it sounds like a good story, Arik Levinson, an economist at Georgetown University has suggested a more complicated story.   His work finds that long-run trends having little to do with energy policy make explain nearly 90% of the differential captured in the chart above. 

Two factors  in particular are emphasized in this alternative explanation.  First, is climate.  It is not just the mild weather in California, which the conventional views acknowledge.  Rather, it is also the domestic migration to the south and west and the extensive use of air conditioning (and less gas for heat).  Levinson estimates this alone accounts for a third of the gap between Californians and the rest of the country.  

Second, Levinson finds that the size of the average household in California has remained essentially flat for several decades, while the rest of the country has seen household size shrink. Levinson estimates that household size may account for nearly 40% of the gap. 

Levinson's work, which is updated in a recent post on Vox, raises questions over the efficacy of efficiency standards.  It is a provocative and reasoned argument.  It does not defeat those who seek a robust conservation regime.  It is everyone's interest to focus on the most effective means.  

Great Graphic: California and Electricity Great Graphic:  California and Electricity Reviewed by Marc Chandler on August 13, 2013 Rating: 5
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