Mild Energy Demand Expected Next 10 Years

By Published On: October 4, 2013

Electricity and natural gas demand in California is expected to grow modestly over the next decade, according to a California Energy Commission forecast released Oct. 1. Tepid economic growth, coupled with stepped-up energy efficiency and demand response programs and more solar roofs should check demand for power and natural gas, according to the forecast. “Compared to our 2011 forecast, we’re starting out at a lower point,” said Chris Kavelic of the Energy Commission’s demand analysis office. Demand for power should remain relatively flat this year, he said, and pick up a bit beginning next year. Consumption per capita should remain relatively flat, though the increasing popularity of electric vehicles could cause some increase, he said. Energy Commission member Andrew McAllister called the forecast effort “a very heavy lift” due to a large number of uncertainties. He pointed out future demand could change dramatically based on such factors as the economic rebound, dramatic strides in energy efficiency, and increased popularity of small solar systems. “There are big questions for energy demand going forward,” McAllister said. Under the forecast, peak demand statewide should grow from about 60,000 MW in 2012 to about 70,000 MW in 2024 under the commission’s mid-case demand projection. Under the mid-case, annual baseline consumption should grow from about 280,000 GWh to 320,000 GWh during the same period. Major drivers for increased consumption that Kavelic noted include more electric vehicles, anticipated operation of the bullet train, and a shift to shore power, instead of reliance on onboard engines, to power ships when they are docked in state ports. Per capita power consumption should remain virtually level, hovering just above 7,000 kWh under the mid-demand case. Natural gas demand is supposed to remain virtually flat through the period. Over the next ten years, the projection assumes the state’s population will rise from about 37 million to about 42 million people. The Energy Commission is taking comments on the draft forecast and expects to adopt it by the end of the year. It is to be used by other agencies, such as the California Public Utilities Commission, as a guide for policies related to utility power procurement and construction of new facilities.

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