California has a long history of leading on energy efficiency—from adopting the first-in-the-nation appliance efficiency standards (Title 20) in the 1970s to the first standards on battery chargers in 2012. Energy efficiency has long-been prioritized in the state, and as California looks to transition away from fossil fuels and toward greater utilization of clean electricity sources, there is also increasing momentum to electrify buildings, homes, and transportation.
At the federal level, the Biden administration has turned its attention to the decarbonization of the building sector, acknowledging that along with electrifying the transportation sector, building decarbonization will be key to address the impacts of climate change. Efficient use of electricity in particular will become increasingly important as California looks to meet climate and clean energy goals. Since 1990, California has more than doubled its energy efficiency (inflation-adjusted GDP relative to energy consumption). However, in recent years, energy consumption has ticked upward after years of decline, particularly in petroleum consumption for the transportation sector and natural gas consumption for the commercial and residential sectors.
Please note that data for 2020 at the state level is not yet available, therefore, it is not feasible to draw definite observations and trends on how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the key points discussed in this chapter. However, it is within reason to postulate that energy consumption in California had declined notably in 2020. Nationwide, U.S. energy consumption fell 7% in 2020 compared to 2019; one may expect a similar level of energy consumption decrease in California as well. Nationwide, the transportation sector leads with a 15% drop in energy consumption primarily due to a large share of the workforce working from home. Surprisingly, in spite of the stay-at-home orders, energy consumption declined 1% in the residential sector. These national level findings should also hold for California.