Electricity Use

How Are We Doing?

Electricity use received a thumbs up because average annual residential electricity use per home in San Diego County decreased by about 15% from 2018 to 2019. Local consumption was comparable to other major urban coastal counties in California and had relatively moderate monthly change. Want to know more about what we're measuring?

thumbs up

Improved more than 1 percent from 2018 to 2019

The San Diego County average annual electricity use per household decreased from 5,493 kWh per home in 2018 to 4,681 kWh in 2019 per home (about 15%). This decrease was significantly larger than the decrease from 2017 to 2018, which was about 2%, and larger than other counties selected, which ranged from 1% to 3% from 2018 to 2019. San Francisco homes have the lowest electricity use on average, however, it remained the same in the last three years.

San Diego County monthly household electricity use has a trend similar to other major urban and suburban counties across California, spiking during late summer and early fall with a smaller peak in December and January. Among the counties selected for comparison, Fresno experiences the most dramatic increase each summer.

Weather plays a large role in electricity use over the year. San Diego County sees only mild fluctuations over the year relative to inland counties. Homes in Fresno for example, see electricity use, due to air conditioning use, increase by more than 200% in the late summer months, the warmest months in the year.

Among the major investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in California, San Diego Gas & Electric (serving 1.4 million business and residential accounts in San Diego County and southern Orange County) averages less electricity use per household monthly than Southern California Edison (serving 5 million accounts in central, coastal and southern California) and Pacific Gas and Electric (serving 16 million accounts in central and northern California).

In 2019, the residential electricity usage in summer months (July and August) was lower than than the same months in the previous year for all three IOUs.

San Diego County residential electricity usage spikes during late summer with a smaller peak in December and January. In summer months, electricity used for air conditioning increases. Electricity used for cooling is impacted by minimum and maximum temperatures, as well as how hot the temperature is on a given day or a period of days. For more information, visit this U.S. Energy Information Administration page

Why is Electricity Use Important?

High quality of life means the region boasts a thriving economy, a healthy environment, and is an equitable place for all San Diegans to grow and prosper.

  • Environment: By decreasing the amount of energy we use in our homes and buildings, the easier and cheaper it will be to transition to a clean electricity generation. Many cities across California, including cities in San Diego Countyare adopting local ordinances that go beyond the State standards and help achieve greater energy efficiency. Tracking electricity use is important because of the need to effectively maximize the use of renewable or zero-carbon electricity use. 
  • Economy: Although San Diego County and California have some of the highest electricity rates in the country, Californians only spend 2% of their pre-tax income on electricity and rank sixth lowest for electricity burden compared to other states. In San Diego County, electricity use is relatively low compared to other regions in the state, resulting in lower electricity bills. 
  • Equity: Extreme heat events are increasing in frequency and intensity in the entire region, requiring higher use of air conditioning. These events have disproportionate effects on communities with high concentrations of poverty, where people are more likely unable to afford the increasingly high cost of electricity associated with air conditioning.

Regional Response

Policies

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has been developing Regional Energy Strategies (RES) since 1994. The current 2014 plan provides long term goal areas such as energy efficiency, renewable energy, distributed generation, transportation fuels, land use and transportation planning, border energy issues, and the green economy. This RES informs SANDAG’s Regional Plans and helps develop programs and identify actions to promote the long-term goals.

Projects

The University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) has a goal of reducing energy use by 2% per year at each campus. At UC San Diego, one of the projects contributing to this goal is a computerized Energy Management System connecting all major campus buildings and centrally monitoring and controlling energy use systems based on occupancy. This helps reduce energy use during evenings, weekends and holidays. Similar energy management system projects are underway in the County of San Diego.

Partnerships

Several Local Government Partnerships (LGPs) were developed between SDG&E and SANDAG, the Port of San Diego, and several large jurisdictions to identify opportunities to implement energy savings at government facilities and their communities. The development, monitoring and implementation of energy reduction measures through Climate Action Plans has been one tangible outcome of these partnerships.


University of San Diego Efforts & Projects

From Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 – 2020, the University of San Diego (USD) saw significant resource savings; the university had a 5% decrease in total energy, a 5% decrease in electrical consumption, and a 6% decrease in natural gas consumption, due to efficiency and conservation measures alone. These resulted in financial savings of approximately $836,837. USD also contracts to have some of its power produced on campus from solar photovoltaics (PV) and a fuel cell, accounting for 30 – 35% of total electrical consumption from FY18-FY20. These projects created cost savings of over $1.8 million in that time frame. Finally, as a Direct Access customer, USD negotiates its energy commodity rate; by doing so, the university saved $36,350 in natural gas and $1.65 million in electricity costs. This totals approximately $4.3 million saved between FY2018 and FY2020. These savings do not take into account the avoided costs that USD would have incurred had consumption remained at 2010 (or 2015) levels; were USD to include those, the savings would be $5.5 - 10 million. And since 2010, the university has reduced its energy consumption 36%.

As the next major step on our road to climate neutrality, the university hired Willdan, Inc. in December 2019 as our partner to create an Energy Master Plan to achieve carbon neutrality for our campus energy use. This will be accomplished via efficiency, conservation and storage, as well as acquiring more power generated from renewable sources. As part of this effort, USD has engaged the engineering team to provide experiential learning opportunities for USD students, both during the creation of the Plan and as part of the implementation of the Plan, starting in 2021. The two projects that students will be working on during development of the Plan are:

  1. Assistance with research, data organization, calculations, and cost-benefit analyses on a large project to upgrade campus building lighting to LEDs.
  2. Conduct equipment inventories on large equipment across campus, including commercial cooking appliances, commercial and laboratory freezers, and autoclaves. Once complete, acquire nameplate data, identify viable energy efficient replacements, and create cost-benefit analyses.
USD’s sustainability department and the engineering team are excited about these prospects and look forward to having kick-off meetings with the two students in fall 2020.

What Are We Measuring?

We measure residential electricity consumption by tracking average annual electricity use per household in San Diego County. We compare that regional consumption to other California counties on an annual and monthly basis and also compare residential usage between the major investor-owned utilities in California. Greenhouse gas emissions are estimated using the Energy Policy Initiative Center SDG&E Service Territory Emissions Factor and are reported in pounds of CO2 equivalent. Emission equivalency derived from the Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. Learn more about the data.