Quantcast

States Lead the Way on Energy Efficiency as Feds Falter

Popular
American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

By Lara Ettenson

A recent report card of state energy efficiency policies and programs shows that even in this era of partisan divide, blue and red states alike are embracing smarter energy use as a key strategy for reducing harmful pollution, saving consumers money, creating jobs and driving economic growth.

The annual ranking of states by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) highlights how many states are stepping up efficiency efforts despite the lack of federal leadership. Utilities nationwide spent more than $7 billion on energy efficiency programs in 2016, saving more than 25 thousand gigawatt-hours of electricity. How much is that? It's enough to power almost 3 million homes and avoid the equivalent amount of emissions spewed from nearly 4 million cars over one year.


This year the scorecard also looks at how well states provide access to programs for low-income customers, who spend a disproportionate amount of their income on energy bills. This will raise the bar of expectations for all states to ensure these customers also share in the benefits of energy efficiency.

State Efforts

In the 2017 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, we see the usual suspects in the "top five" ranking (e.g., Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Vermont and Oregon). We also see great improvements in states we wouldn't necessarily expect (e.g., Idaho, Florida and Virginia).

Furthermore, in contrast to states who rolled back efficiency policies (e.g., Indiana and Minnesota), others renewed their commitment to help lay the groundwork for future savings (e.g., Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio). This just goes to show that more states are finding efficiency a critical way to cut energy waste, save customers money and reduce pollution.

However, some states are not living up to their potential or even meeting their past efforts, such as New York State. The good news? Given Gov. Cuomo's leadership and commitment to tackling climate change and scaling up clean energy, New York could regain its ranking as a national leader on energy efficiency if it takes the right steps to shore up the state's energy efficiency framework in the coming months.

What's Next?

The Scorecard also highlights how states—even leaders—can do more:

  • Set up an energy efficiency resource standard and provide sufficient funding to implement it. Such standards, currently on the books in 26 states, require utilities to save energy through efficiency. States with an EERS have shown average energy efficiency spending and savings levels more than three times as high as those in states without an EERS, according to ACEEE.
  • Promote expanded low-income efficiency programs. Low-income customers pay up to three times as much as the average household for home energy costs and can save money and improve health with energy efficiency programs. Illinois last year required Commonwealth Edison and Ameren Illinois to invest $25 million and $8.35 million per year on programs to increase the efficiency of low-income households. Nevada earlier this year passed legislation requiring big utilities to set aside 5 percent of their budgets for programs that reduce energy costs for low-income households.
  • Strengthen building codes and improve compliance. Codes help make sure that efficient choices are made from the start so new homes and buildings save customers money on energy bills and cut dangerous climate pollution.
  • Adopt California tailpipe emission standards and set targets for reducing vehicle miles traveled. Improving overall transportation greenhouse gas reduction performance at the state and metro level is critical to substantially cut emissions and is an action that has gained urgency amid a threatened rollback of federal clean car and fuel economy standards.
  • Treat qualifying Combined Heat and Power (CHP) efforts on par with other efficiency savings. CHP systems can help improve the efficiency of manufacturing facilities, buildings, and homes; save consumers money on their energy bills; drive business competitiveness, economic growth, and jobs; enhance grid reliability and flexibility; and help protect public health and the environment.
  • Step up state-led efforts to promote energy efficiency, including investing in research and development of energy efficiency technology and 'leading by example' by reducing energy use in public buildings and fleets.
  • Promote innovative financing opportunities to take advantage of private capital and lower costs of implementing efficiency.

Importance of Taking Individual Action

State efforts have gained urgency as President Trump recklessly shrugs off the dangers of climate change and moves to cut back popular—and successful—federal energy efficiency programs. What can you do? In addition to supporting those who focus their work on reducing the impact of climate change, this Thursday is the second annual Energy Efficiency Day where every one of us can take actions to make a difference.

With the Trump administration actively rolling back efforts that help Americans, it's up to states to keep the strong momentum of shifting to a clean energy economy that benefits the economy, customers' wallets, public health and the environment.

Lara Ettenson is the director of the California Energy Efficiency Policy, Energy & Transportation Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Scanning electron micrograph of Yersinia pestis, which causes bubonic plague, on proventricular spines of a Xenopsylla cheopis flea. NIAID / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

A middle-aged married couple in China was diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a highly infectious disease similar to bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe in the middle ages, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Milk made from almonds, oats and coconut are among the healthiest alternatives to cow's milk. triocean / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Dairy aisles have exploded with milk and milk alternative options over the past few years, and choosing the healthiest milk isn't just about the fat content.

Whether you're looking beyond cow's milk for health reasons or dietary preferences or simply want to experiment with different options, you may wonder which type of milk is healthiest for you.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Greta Thunberg stands aboard the catamaran La Vagabonde as she sets sail to Europe in Hampton, Virginia, on Nov. 13. NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP via Getty Images

Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist whose weekly school strikes have spurred global demonstrations, has cut short her tour of the Americas and set sail for Europe to attend COP25 in Madrid next month, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
The Lake Delhi Dam in Iowa failed in 2010. VCU Capital News Service / Josh deBerge / FEMA

At least 1,688 dams across the U.S. are in such a hazardous condition that, if they fail, could force life-threatening floods on nearby homes, businesses, infrastructure or entire communities, according to an in-depth analysis of public records conducted by the the Associated Press.

Read More Show Less

By Sabrina Kessler

Far-reaching allegations about how a climate-sinning American multinational could shamelessly lie to the public about its wrongdoing mobilized a small group of New York students on a cold November morning. They stood in front of New York's Supreme Court last week to follow the unprecedented lawsuit against ExxonMobil.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

By Alex Robinson

Leah Garcés used to hate poultry farmers.

The animal rights activist, who opposes factory farming, had an adversarial relationship with chicken farmers until around five years ago, when she sat down to listen to one. She met a poultry farmer called Craig Watts in rural North Carolina and learned that the problems stemming from factory farming extended beyond animal cruelty.

Read More Show Less
People navigate snow-covered sidewalks in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on Nov. 11 in Chicago. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Temperatures plunged rapidly across the U.S. this week and around 70 percent of the population is expected to experience temperatures around freezing Wednesday.

Read More Show Less
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

Read More Show Less