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USAEE 2009 – The Rosenfeld Curve

Posted in California,Demand Management,Papers by Cheryl Morgan on the December 5th, 2008

Time to be nice to Stanford for a change. The best paper I have seen here was delivered by Anant Sudarshan, a PhD student studying under Jim Sweeney. It was about the Rosenfeld Curve. For those of you from outside California, this is all about the fact that while most of the US has high and ever-increasing electricity use per capita, the usage levels in California have been steady since the 1970s are are currently similar to those of responsible Scandinavians such as the Danes. Many people want to know why this is so. Some excuse it on the basis of California’s balmy climate, lack of heavy industry and very high prices. Others give credit to the state’s progressive demand reduction policies.

At Sweeny’s suggestion, Sudarshan set about testing various variables to see which ones had actual explanatory value. You can read the whole paper here. I haven’t had a chance to do so yet, but here are some key points I got from the presentation.

  • The lack of heavy industry is not a major explanatory factor
  • California’s commercial sector uses significantly less floor space per capita than the rest of the country (possibly due to high property costs)
  • The average size of families in California is rising, while it is falling in the rest of the country (large families use less energy per capita due to economies of scale)
  • California has a higher proportion of poor families than the rest of the country
  • Around 23% of the reduced usage can be ascribed to policy effects (high prices were counted as a policy, but policy also included things such as buildings and appliance standards)

While the California Energy Commission will doubtless be disappointed not to be able to take the entire credit for the Rosenfeld effect, 23% is still a significant proportion of the savings and California’s policies might therefore be usefully adopted by other states wishing to reduce electricity demand growth.

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