Energy in California

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California's peak electricity demand occurred on July 24, 2006, at 2:44 pm, 50,270 Megawatts. Since then measures to reduce peak load have resulted in decreased peak demand. In 2011, the peak load was 45,545 MW, on September 7.[1] By 2020 California is required to obtain at least 33% of electricity from renewable sources other than large hydro.[2] The legislature is considering new regulations in 2013 which would compel utilities to invest in energy storage technology, the first such legislation in the United States.[3]

In-State Electricity Source Percentages[4]
Year Wind Solar Small hydro Geothermal Biomass Large hydro Coal Nuclear Natural gas
2011 3.8% 0.53% 3.1% 6.3% 2.9% 18.3% 1.6% 18.3% 45.3%
2012 4.6% 0.9% 2.1% 6.4% 3.0% 11.7% 0.8% 9.3% 61.1%
2013 6.35% 2.15% 1.67% 6.25% 3.21% 10.39% 0.51% 8.94% 60.5%
2014 6.5% 5.3% 1.2% 6.1% 3.4% 7.1% 0.5% 8.6% 61.3%

As of 2014, 33.0% of electricity was imported, and of that, 45.4% was of unspecified origin.

Total Electricity Source Percentages[4]
Year Wind Solar Small hydro Geothermal Biomass Large hydro Coal Nuclear Natural gas Unspecified Renewables
2011 5.1% 0.43% 2.2% 4.7% 2.2% 13.4% 8.4% 15.7% 36.5% 11.5% 14.5%
2012 6.3% 0.9% 1.5% 4.4% 2.3% 8.3% 7.5% 9.0% 43.4% 16.4% 15.4%
2013 8.55% 1.82% 1.29% 4.45% 2.67% 7.76% 7.82% 8.84% 44.31% 12.49% 18.77%
2014 8.1% 4.2% 0.9% 4.4% 2.5% 5.5% 6.4% 8.5% 44.5% 15.0% 20.1%

Resources and consumption[edit]

California’s crude oil and natural gas deposits are located in six geological basins in the Central Valley and along the coast. California has more than a dozen of the United States' largest oil fields, including the Midway-Sunset Oil Field, the second largest oil field in the contiguous United States. California’s hydroelectric power potential ranks second in the United States (behind Washington State), and substantial geothermal and wind power resources are found along the coastal mountain ranges and the eastern border with Nevada. High solar power potential is found in southeastern California’s deserts.

California is the most populous state in the nation, but its total energy demand is second to the state of Texas. The state has one of the lowest per capita energy consumption rates in the country due in part to the relatively mild weather comparative to the rest of the nation.[5]


California’s crude oil output accounts for more than one-tenth of total U.S. production.[citation needed] Drilling operations are concentrated primarily in Kern County and the Los Angeles basin.[citation needed] Although there is also substantial offshore oil and gas production, there is a permanent moratorium on new offshore oil and gas leasing in California waters and a deferral of leasing in Federal waters.[citation needed]

California ranks third in the United States in petroleum refining capacity and accounts for more than one-tenth of total U.S. capacity.[citation needed] In addition to oil from California, California’s refineries process crude oil from Alaska and foreign suppliers. The refineries are configured to produce cleaner fuels, including reformulated motor gasoline and low-sulfur diesel, to meet strict Federal and State environmental regulations.

Most California motorists are required to use a special motor gasoline blend called California Clean Burning Gasoline (CA CBG).[citation needed] By 2004, California completed a transition from methyl tertiary butyl-ether (MTBE) to ethanol as a gasoline oxygenate additive, making California the largest ethanol fuel market in the United States.[citation needed] There are four ethanol production plants in central and southern California, but most of California’s ethanol supply is transported from other states or abroad.

Natural gas[edit]

California natural gas production typically is less than 2 percent of total annual U.S. production and satisfies less than one-sixth of state demand.[6][7] California receives most of its natural gas by pipeline from production regions in the Rocky Mountains, the Southwest, and western Canada.[7]


Part of the 354 MW SEGS solar complex in northern San Bernardino County, California.

Natural gas-fired power plants typically account for more than one-half of State electricity generation. California is one of the largest hydroelectric power producers in the United States, and with adequate rainfall, hydroelectric power typically accounts for close to one-fifth of State electricity generation. Due to strict emission laws, only a few small coal-fired power plants operate in California.

California leads the nation in electricity generation from non-hydroelectric renewable energy sources, including geothermal power, wind power, and solar power. California has some of the most aggressive renewable energy goals in the United States, with a target for California to obtain a third of its electricity from renewables by 2020.[8]

Solar Energy Generating Systems (SEGS) is the name given to nine solar power plants in the Mojave Desert which were built in the 1980s. These plants have a combined capacity of 354 megawatts (MW) making them the largest solar power installation in the world.[9] Nevada Solar One is a new solar thermal plant with a 64-MW generating capacity, located near Boulder City, NV.[10] There are also plans to build other large solar plants in the Mojave Desert. An additional 392 megawatts of solar-derived electricity is expected to be added by the Ivanpah Solar Power Facility by the year 2013.[11]

A facility known as “The Geysers,” located in the Mayacamas Mountains north of San Francisco, is the largest group of geothermal power plants in the world, with more than 750 megawatts of installed capacity. The Alta-Oak Creek Mojave wind project is an approved 800 MW wind farm proposal which would include up to 320 wind turbines in the mountains between Tehachapi and Mojave. Kern County is reviewing a number of other proposed wind projects that would generate a combined 4,600 megawatts of clean energy if approved.[12]

Due to high electricity demand, California imports more electricity than any other state, primarily hydroelectric power from states in the Pacific Northwest (via Path 15 and Path 66) and coal- and natural gas-fired production from the desert Southwest via Path 46.[13]

Although California's population increased by 13% during the 1990s, the state did not build any new major power plants during that time, although existing in-state power plants were expanded and power output was increased nearly 30% from 1990 to 2001.

California’s two nuclear power plants account for less than one-tenth of total generation, these are:[14][15]

California also used to have another nuclear power plant, the Rancho Seco Nuclear Generating Station, which produced more than 900 MW. However, it was shut down by public referendum.[16]

Sustainable energy[edit]

California has led the United States from 2010 to 2013 with its sustainable energy plans (also known as "clean energy"), with Clean Edge's Clean Energy Index for 2013 rating it at 91.7, with the second ranked state being Massachusetts, at 77.8, and Mississippi the lowest at 4.2. California is the only state with extensive deployment of wind, solar, and geothermal energy. California's venture capital investments in sustainable energy are greater than the other 49 states combined, at $2.2 billion in 2012.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ California ISO Peak Load History
  2. ^ Renewables and demand response integration
  3. ^ California poised to adopt first-in-nation energy storage mandate, San Jose Mercury News, October 16, 2013
  4. ^ a b "Total Electricity System Power". California Energy Commission. Retrieved 2015-11-18. 
  5. ^ "California, State Energy Profile". Official Energy Statistics from the U.S. Government. Energy Information Administration. Retrieved 2007-10-02. 
  6. ^ "Natural Gas Annual 2006" (PDF). US Department of Energy. October 2007. pp. 1, 70. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  7. ^ a b "Overview of Natural Gas in California". Energy Almanac. California Energy Commission. Retrieved 2009-01-11. 
  8. ^ California OKs new transmission for renewables Reuters, December 17, 2009.
  9. ^ SunLab (1998).Solar Trough Systems Retrieved December 18, 2008.
  10. ^ Utility-Scale Solar Plant Goes Online in Nevada Environment News Service, June 4, 2007. Retrieved December 18, 2008.
  11. ^ Sacrificing the desert to save the Earth LA Times February 5, 2012.
  12. ^ California's largest wind power projects has been approved by Kern County 17 December 2009.
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ "California Nuclear Industry". Energy Information Administration. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  15. ^ "Nuclear Energy in California". California Energy Commission. Retrieved 2008-07-10. 
  16. ^ California’s Potemkin Environmentalism, City Journal
  17. ^ [2]

External links[edit]