Why is This Important?
San Mateo County depends on the burning of nonrenewable fossil fuels -- coal, petroleum, and natural gas -- for much of its energy. Burning of fossil fuels negatively impacts air quality and releases significant quantities of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. California has committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. Increased energy efficiency and an increase in energy sources that do not generate greenhouse gases are keys to achieving this goal. An overreliance on fossil fuels can also make our economy vulnerable to price spikes in the oil or natural gas markets.
What is a Sustainable State?
A sustainable state is carbon neutral, and energy is produced from clean, renewable sources and is used efficiently amongst all user groups.
How Are We Doing?
· In 2009, total energy use in San Mateo County (as measured by the amount of electricity and natural gas delivered by regulated utilities in the county) was 39.1 trillion British thermal units (BTUs), a 3.3 percent decrease from 2008. Total energy use in the county has remained largely flat since 2000, when the county consumed 39.6 trillion BTUs. This calculation does not include energy used for transportation. (See Transportation: Gasoline Use and Fuel Efficiency)
· Natural gas accounted for 57 percent of energy consumed in the county, roughly the same as in past years. Just under half (48 percent) of all energy is used in residential homes; 52 percent of energy use is non-residential.
· Per capita residential energy use decreased by 3.7 percent to 25.0 million BTUs per capita in 2009. Total per capita residential energy use is down 8 percent since 2005.
· Residential energy use varies widely by city, and is correlated with lot size and income. Average monthly energy use was highest in Atherton, with each household using on average 19.7 million BTUs per month in electricity and natural gas. By comparison, the average household in Brisbane uses only 5.1 million BTUs per month.
· The San Mateo County Energy Strategy 2012, adopted by all 20 municipalities in the county, sets a goal of 25 percent reduced power use from 2005 levels. While per capita residential energy use is down, total energy use countywide has increased 5 percent since 2005, primarily because of commercial industrial use growing.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) provides most of the electricity used by San Mateo County residents and businesses. PG&E’s energy supply mix is an important measure of the true impact of electricity use in the county.
· In 2009, PG&E’s delivered electricity was cleaner than both the state and national average with 34.6 percent from natural gas, 20 percent nuclear power, and 13 percent from large hydroelectric. Only 1.3 percent of electricity was from coal-fired power plants.
· Eligible renewable power accounted for 17.7 percent of PG&E’s electricity generation in 2010. (The state standard for utilities is 20 percent.) This includes small hydro, geothermal, wind, solar, and biomass. Of these, biomass and waste combustion (30.1 percent of renewable power) and geothermal (29.7 percent) were the two largest renewable power sources. Solar generation made up only 0.2 percent of all renewable power.
· In 2010, 1,531 kilowatts of new solar generating capacity were installed in San Mateo County, an increase of 19 percent from the previous year. (As a rule of thumb, it takes about 3 kW of generating capacity to provide one home with electricity for one year). Annual installation of solar projects in the county has roughly tripled over the last five years. The weak economy was the most likely factor in the reduction in installations in 2009.
· At year end 2010, over 10,100 kilowatts of total solar generating capacity were installed in the county, enough to power approximately 3,500 homes for one year. The vast majority of this amount has been installed in the last three years as part of the California Solar Initiative program.
· At the end of 2010, Redwood City had the most installed solar generating capacity, with 1,368 kW installed, about 14 percent of the total countywide.