Mainstream energy use in Sonoma County eased slightly as the county population grew over the last ten years, increasing by 30% as human numbers climbed 31%. Gains in the conservation of gasoline per capita were offset by increased uses of electricity, while natural gas use per capita remained constant. The bulk of stationary power uses, traditionally in the residential sector, has shifted somewhat to accommodate more energy use for commercial and other applications.
Use rates for the most common forms of energy are tracked by the California Energy Commission. Sonoma County's main provider of electricity, Pacific Gas and Electric, draws on a variety of sources, some of them local, to feed its regional power grids--including geothermal, natural gas, hydropower, nuclear, oil, and coal resources. Propane, solar, wind, wood heat, cogeneration, other energy alternatives and gains in conservation are not currently monitored by public agencies.
Gasoline, natural gas, and electricity use climbed moderately over the last ten years. (Shown in thousands of gallons, therms, and kilowatthours.)
Total consumption of gasoline, electricity, and natural gas (the three categories measured) amounted to 274,746 Btu's (British thermal units) per capita per day in 1994, the equivalent of 25 pounds of coal or two gallons of crude oil burned per person. Consumption of gasoline accounts for slightly more than half of total mainstream energy use in Sonoma County, down by 4% from 1983 levels. Electric use now takes up more of the pie, having climbed from 16% to19%. Reliance upon natural gas, the second most favored energy form, moved from 28% to 29% of the total.
Of itself, gasoline consumption rose 25% during this period, falling off from a per capita rate of 1.24 gallons daily in 1983 to 1.17 gallons in 1994, in part reflecting increased fuel efficiency in motor vehicles.
Electricity use in the county rose by 47.6%, from 13.4 kilowatthours (kWh) to 14.8 kWh per capita per day between 1983 and 1994--at its current level, enough to power five refrigerators per person daily. Because energy is lost in the production of usable power, particularly electricity, the total amount of energy consumed by electric users is about 2.75 times more than the amount received for end-use.
Residential and commercial uses place the highest demands on electric power.
Stationary energy use in the county shifted slightly between 1983 and 1994, with more power going to commercial, agricultural, water pumping, miscellaneous, and assembly purposes. Residential use, now 44%, dropped by 8%. Transportation, communication, and utilities (TCU) dropped by 1% in relative usage.
Natural gas use increased 32.6% during this period, remaining at about 286 therms per capita yearly, enough to run one hot water heater for each resident. Residential uses of natural gas have dropped by 2% relatively, yielding to an equivalent rise in commercial use.
A slightly larger portion of the commercial sector now relies on natural gas.
California Energy Commission, California Department of Transportation, US Department of Energy, Community Network for Appropriate Technologies.
The Community Network for Appropriate Technologies, a local group concerned with energy conservation, in Sonoma County Energy End Use Study (1980), found the greatest and costliest user of power in Sonoma County to be transportation (49%) and, more specifically, the automobile (40%). Among stationary uses of power, a significant portion (35-39%) went into low-temperature tasks--space heating and cooling, water heating, and clothes
drying--which are prime candidates for savings through conservation techniques and technologies. The group said energy savings made in these areas in residential, commercial, and institutional sectors, combined with a full review of related policies--and community-based energy planning--could "ensure a successful integration of the conservation ethic" and "reduce by scores of millions the amount of money which now leaves our county annually for energy purposes" (21). Authors also noted that the US was dependent on imports for 50% of its petroleum-based energy uses at that time.
In An Assessment of Energy Use and Resource Potential in Sonoma County (1982), consultant Jennifer Barrett found petroleum fuel provided the largest single portion of energy used in the county, accounting for 46% of the energy pie. Of petroleum used in the state at that time, nearly half was produced along the coast, another significant portion in Alaska, and 18% overseas.
Electric use in primary BTUs accounted for 31% of the total; natural gas, 23%. Sources for electricity passing into the Pacific Gas and Electric energy grid in 1982 included oil, natural gas, hydropower, nuclear, and coal. Most of the natural gas in use had its source in the southwest US and Canada; 12% originated within the state and offshore.
In the county, the transportation sector used more than 45% of all energy consumed, primarily to fuel private trucks and automobiles. Residential uses accounted for 32%: commercial, less than 15%; and industrial (mostly food processing) under 10%. Agricultural uses--including livestock and poultry production, transportation and application of petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides--amounted to 1%.
Barrett estimated that the county could save 19% of its total energy consumption through conservation and greater reliance on alternative resources, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydropower. Up to 9% of the transportation energy outlay could be cut through use of alternative transportation systems, changes in land use patterns, and alternative fuels, she said. Residents could reduce power consumption by 30% in their homes through conservation and changes in technologies for heating, cooling, and other applications, while the commercial sector could cut back 33% by changing operating procedures, retrofitting for conservation, and through new design. Street lighting costs could be cut by 50%, and industrial by 20% through cogeneration, use of solar energy, and energy efficiency, Barrett
said. The same report concluded that agriculture could cut back by 35% with more efficient pumps, solar heating, and agricultural, wind, and biomass energy production.
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