California Leadership in Technology Innovation

As the 5th largest economy in the world,[1] California has enormous influence in virtually every market. With more than 12% of the nation’s population, California has tremendous buying power, assuring that California’s market leading resource and environmental policies will spark interest and enthusiasm from a wide range of entities that envision playing a significant role in bringing new products and services that help to meet California’s visonary goals.

California’s ambitious clean energy goals combined with the heft of California’s buying power was the single largest factor in establishing the national (and international) solar photovoltaic (PV) markets which, prior to the 2007 California Solar Initiative, had been faltering. The below figure shows how California’s commitments to solar drove market prices down at a much more rapid pace than “business as usual” could ever accomplish.


Figure 6. Inverse Relationship of Average Solar PV Prices and California Installations

Compiled from California Distributed Generation Statistics website:


The above chart shows the significant decrease of solar PV costs (the red and orange lines) driven in large part by California’s $3.3 billion commitment to the California Solar Initiative and the New Solar Homes Partnership.[2]

Similarly, California’s call for battery energy storage to support its growing portfolio of solar and wind resources under its aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standard[3] is driving the global energy storage market.[4] California also accounts for nearly 50% of the national market for plug-in electric vehicles.[5]

In fact, California has been driving technology innovation for many years through its visionary energy and environmental policies and aggressive codes and standards. On the horizon:

  • On January 1, 2018, California’s new Title 20 Appliance Efficiency regulations stipulating performance requirements for lighting became effective. The new regulation (adopted in January 2016) created “first-in-the-nation energy standards for the next generation of light bulbs.”[6] Energy Commission staff estimated electric savings from these new standards of 3,000 GWh per year at full turnover of existing lightbulb inventories, projected to occur by 2029. This new regulation is also estimated to avoid 10.3 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents between 2017 and 2029.[7]
  • On May 9, 2018, the Energy Commission adopted building standards that will require, among other things, that all new homes built on or after January 1, 2020 have solar PV systems.[8]
  • On July 1, 2018, Water Efficiency Standards adopted in 2015 became effective. Under this regulation, showerheads sold in California cannot exceed 1.8 gpm.[9]

Attesting to California’s market leadership is the fact that suppliers along all segments of these supply chains rush to provide the new products and services needed to meet California’s new efficiency codes. More than that – many suppliers also seek to be among the first that offer above-code fixtures that exceed California codes and standards. Many suppliers had 1.5 to 1.8 gpm showerheads available for purchase long before the Title 20 effective date of July 1, 2018. Some, anticipating niche markets for the ultra-committed customers, are marketing showerheads that can be dialed down to even lower flows – some as low as 0.5 gpm.

California doesn’t disappoint, with billions of dollars made available every year to support adoption of efficient measures and strategies. During calendar year (CY) 2017, ratepayer investments in regulated energy utilities’ demand side management programs exceeded $1.66 billion.[10]


[1] Bureau of Economic Analysis. Gross Domestic Product by State: Fourth Quarter and Annual 2017. May 4, 2018.

[2] “About Go Solar California.” Go Solar California.

[3] Senate Bill 350, De León. Clean Energy and Pollution Reduction Act of 2015, 50% renewable energy by 2030.

[4] The Climate Group. How California is Driving the Energy Storage Market Through State Legislation. April 27, 2017.

[5] The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT). Update: California’s electric vehicle market. May 2017.

[6] California Energy Commission Press Release. Energy Commission Adopts Lighting Standards to Save More Than $4 Billion in Electricity Costs. January 27, 2016.

[7] California Energy Commission. Energy Efficiency Standards for Lighting, Frequently Asked Questions. Publication Number CEC-400-2015-041-FS.

[8] California Energy Commission. 2019 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, Frequently Asked Questions.

[9] California Energy Commission Press Release. Energy Commission Approves New Standards to Save 38 Billion Gallons of Water. August 12, 2015.

[10] Zelazo, Michael, Bridget Sieren-Smith, Amardeep Assar. California Electric and Gas Utility Cost Report, Public Utilities Code Section 913, Annual Report to the Governor and the Legislature, Table 5.1: 2017 Demand Side Management and Customer Programs Costs ($000). California Public Utilities Commission. April 2018.