Increasing numbers of rooftop solar photovoltaic installations in Berkeley may have helped reduce the city's residential energy consumption

Despite growing in size, Berkeley is using less energy, according to new data released by the city’s Energy and Sustainable Development department.

Over the past decade, the number of households in Berkeley has increased by around 1,000, but total residential energy consumption in the city between 2000 and 2010 fell by 10%. This is also despite a proliferation of household electronics and portable devices such as smart phones, tablets, and laptops, all of which consume electricity.

Marna Schwartz from the Office of Energy and Sustainable Development, says this is an indication that the city’s Climate Action Plan is working. “We have to be reducing our energy consumption and meet certain goals, so this is encouraging,” she said.

Between 2000 and 2010, residential natural gas consumption went down 11% in Berkeley. This is significant because natural gas, which is used primarily for home and water heating, accounts for nearly 80% of total residential energy consumption. Over the same period, residential electricity consumption decreased 7%.Schwartz said the city can only speculate on the specific reasons people are using less energy. It could be to save money, and/or to reduce greenhouse gases. More homeowners are improving their home insulation and installing solar panels. The number of solar photovoltaic installations in Berkeley increased from two in 2000 to more than 790 by the summer 2011.

There has also been an increase in the number of energy-saving programs and services on offer. Energy Upgrade California provides rebates for home energy improvements – up to $6,000 per household is currently available — for instance. Berkeley’s Residential Energy Conservation Ordinance also requires certain energy and water-saving improvements when a home is sold or undergoes a major remodel.

Schwartz said the Berkeley’s energy conservation performance is better than at state level.

Berkeley publishes data annually that measures building energy use, solid waste diversion, and transportation trends.

For more information about the Berkeley community’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions trends as well as other statistics and resources related to recycling, bicycling and walking, urban forestry, and more, visit the city’s Climate Progress website. For ideas on how to get involved in the local climate action effort, visit the city’s climate information page and and click on “Take Action on Climate Change.”

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...