Last month marked the 40th anniversary of California's landmark Warren-Alquist Act, which created the California Energy Commission and triggered a transformation of energy policy in California, across the U.S., and abroad.
An impressive group of energy policymakers, political leaders, energy scholars and Energy Commission alumni gathered at events in Sacramento and at the U.C. Davis School of Law, to commemorate the first four decades of the Commission’s important work and–even more importantly–to chart California’s energy policy in the years ahead. There, dignitaries including California Governor Jerry Brown, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Chairman R.K. Packauri and the co-author of the 1974 Warren-Alquist Act reminisced about the launch of the Energy Commission in January 1975 and challenged the Commission to continue its energy leadership through the coming decades.
As Governor Brown and former Assemblyman Charles Warren noted, the seeds of the transformative Warren-Alquist Act sprouted in the early 1970’s, when California’s private utilities were experiencing 7-9% annual growth in state electricity demand. The utilities projected that some 60-70 new, 1000 megawatt nuclear power plants would be required to accommodate that demand, which they forecast would double every 10 years. An influential report by the Rand Corporation, published contemporaneously, confirmed the utilities’ projected growth rate, but presciently observed that it would only occur under a “business as usual” scenario. Other energy futures, the report opined, were possible.
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