California has been leading the way in conserving electricity, Steven Chu pointed out. In 1973, electricity use in the United States was about 8,000 kilowatt-hours per person for the country as a whole and about 6,500 kilowatt-hours for California. By 2006, electricity use per person in the United States averaged 12,000 kilowatt-hours, while in California electricity use was about 7,000 kilowatt-hours. Meanwhile, the real gross domestic product of California grew by a factor of two. It’s a “myth that if you flatten the use of energy you will kill your economy,” Chu said.
One of the most important advances in California was the introduction of energy efficiency standards. For example, the efficiency of refrigerators improved by more than a factor of four from 1975 to 2005 even as the size of refrigerators grew from 18 cubic feet to 22 cubic feet. Meanwhile, the inflation-adjusted cost of refrigerators went down by a factor of two. The amount of energy saved just from refrigerators is equivalent to more than two-thirds of all the hydroelectric power generated in the United States (Figure 10.1). Major efficiency gains also are possible with air conditioners and gas furnaces. “This should be done throughout the whole sector,” Chu said.
Large amounts of energy also can be saved through building codes. California has a temperate climate, which makes heating and cooling buildings less expensive. Yet California codes call for extensive building insulation, which