California’s Power Crisis: An Environmentalist’s Vision

By Paul Gipe


The current power crisis offers an unparalleled, if not unfortunate, opportunity to rethink how we produce, consume, and value electricity in the Golden State. Electricity is a means to an end–a tool for meeting the needs of people–and not an end in itself. We envision a system that is sustainable, a system that meets the needs of people today as well those of future generations. We envision a system that is built upon sufficiency for all, equitably distributed. We envision a system that enhances the quality of life for all Californians. Such a system is built upon services rendered, needs met, not upon a constant and never-ending growth of supply. We envision an electric system for people, for life.

Note: This is not a statement of specific goals, or a strategy of how to achieve those goals. This is merely a statement of what we want to find when we get there.

One achievable near-term objective fitting this vision is reaching residential per capita consumption of electricity equivalent to that of Europeans. Typically Europeans consume about half the electricity per capita of Californians while enjoy the same standard of living. By some measures, Europeans enjoy a higher standard of living, yet use less electricity, less oil, less energy in general.