Even with the lowest per-capita energy use among the 50 U.S. states, California is facing annual electricity growth that totals 20% over this first decade of the 21st Century, according to the draft “California Energy Outlook: Electricity and Natural Gas Trends Report” by the state energy commission. It is scheduled to be finalized by the five-member commission Sept. 5, along with a separate natural gas infrastructure report.

Both documents depict a state that is expected to increase in population by another 15% by 2010 and enjoy cumulative economic growth of 40% over the same period while the energy growth is about half of that. Peak electricity demand growth is expected to follow, although not at the same rates.

Mandated by state legislation passed last year at the end of the summer after electricity and gas price sticker shock had crept into the state via San Diego, the electric/gas trend report notes that because supply and infrastructure concerns will continue to challenge the state, policymakers will continue to take more interest in the state energy agency’s projections.

The overall report’s tone is generally optimistic, given that new supply, infrastructure and energy-saving initiatives were all under development as the draft was finished earlier this month.

The frequency of peaks over 40,000 MW may be more important than the heights of individual peaks, according to one part of the draft report that looks at the “misconceptions of the Summer 2000,” the tumultuous time used in the state’s later-declared statewide electricity crisis. The energy commission draft report notes that there are “many opinions as to why there were so many” emergency (Stage 1 and 2) power alerts declared by the state transmission grid operator, Cal-ISO, through last year, while the all-time one-day peak set the previous year was never matched.

“It is important to note that while the maximum demand was lower in 2000 (then 1999), there were more days of very high demand that were over 40,000 MW,” the report states. “It may be that frequent very high demand- days may tax the electric system (especially generation) more so than just the single maximum day.”

The report estimates a range of different annual electricity growth rates, varying among metropolitan areas from highs of 2.3% in San Diego to 1.1% annually in Los Angeles; and a varying range among end-user groups from 2.2% annually for industrial users to 1.7% annually for residential customers.

“Natural gas and electricity markets are tied together, with natural gas being the fuel of choice,” the trends report states. “Natural gas consumption by power plants is volatile since electricity demand may fluctuate significantly depending on weather variations.”

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