Mass. tops efficiency ranking, but others are catching up

Source: By Benjamin Storrow, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Those are among the highlights in an annual scorecard released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

The findings come amid a flurry of state actions to bolster energy efficiency initiatives and as the federal government has sought to roll back national energy savings efforts.

Maine, New York and New Mexico were among the states to ramp up energy efficiency investments as part of wider efforts to curb emissions. Energy efficiency is the leading form of carbon abatement nationally.

“The states that are doing the best are those that have a robust policy framework in place, especially for driving utility sector energy efficiency,” said Weston Berg, a senior analyst at ACEEE and the report’s lead author.

Some 26 states now boast targets for achieving efficiency gains in the power sector, he said, adding, “Those states on average are achieving three to four times as much energy efficiency in terms of electricity sales.”

State efforts were hardly limited to the power sector, however. A growing number of states are adopting California’s zero-emission vehicle standards; New Mexico and Minnesota last week became the latest to follow the Golden State’s lead. Colorado, Hawaii and Washington were among the states to pass appliance standards.

There were also notable cases like Nebraska, which, absent any climate legislation, overhauled a decade-old building code in favor of the most recent efficiency standards favored by the International Code Council.

The leading states reaped the benefit of having efficiency laws on the books. Massachusetts owes much of its lofty perch to the Green Communities Act, a 2008 state law that established building codes and efficiency targets for utilities. California is nipping at the Bay State’s heels with its bevy of programs to improve the efficiency of vehicles, homes and appliances. The passage of a landmark climate bill, which included energy efficiency targets, helped New York move into fifth position.

Maryland achieved the largest point increase of any state thanks to its programs targeting efficiency gains of 2% annual electricity sales, strong building codes and plans to bolster its network of electric vehicle charging stations. Maryland is seventh in this year’s rankings, up from 10th last year.

Those actions stand in contrast to Washington, D.C., where the Trump administration has proposed rolling back everything from federal fuel efficiency standards for vehicles to efficiency standards for some lightbulbs.

Indeed, while many states took steps to become more efficient, others went in the opposite direction.

Ohio effectively gutted its energy efficiency targets. Iowa saw its utilities scale back spending in energy efficiency programs following a law last year that capped efficiency investments.

Kentucky observed the biggest move of any state, falling nine places to 39th. That’s largely because regulators eliminated many of the state’s demand management programs. They included consumer incentives to buy efficient appliances and financial assistance to schools to hire energy managers.