Energy efficiency measures continue to flourish in states across the country, with several states — including California, Maryland, Illinois, Texas, and Washington, DC — taking major steps that improved their scores in the ninth annual edition of the State Energy Efficiency Scorecard by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The State Scorecard ranking of the states is issued annually with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy.
“Governors, legislators, regulators, and citizens are increasingly recognizing that energy efficiency is a crucially important state resource,” said Annie Gilleo, ACEEE state policy manager and lead author of the State Scorecard. “As a result, many innovative policies and programs that promote energy efficiency originate at the state level. The State Scorecard reflects these successes through a comprehensive analysis of state efforts to support energy efficiency.”
The top 10 states for energy efficiency are Massachusetts, California, Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland, Washington, and New York, with Minnesota and Illinois tied for 10th place. Massachusetts retains the top spot for the fifth consecutive year based on a strong commitment to energy efficiency under its Green Communities Act. In California, requirements for reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, major efforts to achieve energy efficiency in schools, and implementation of a cap-and-trade program earned the state several more points this year, putting it only a half-point behind Massachusetts in the state rankings.
“Energy efficiency is the most cost effective, accessible way for Massachusetts to meet our clean energy goals and help ratepayers manage their energy costs,” said Charlie Baker, Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. “Being recognized for the fifth consecutive year by ACEEE as the nation’s leader in energy efficiency underlines the commitment Massachusetts has made to pursue a diversified energy portfolio and my administration is seeking more, renewable energy sources like hydro power to continue this important effort.”
Twenty states rose in the State Scorecard rankings. California, a leading state, is also one of the most improved states this year.
“This year Governor Brown called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40% below 1990 by 2030 to deal with the threat of climate change,” said Clifford Rechtschaffen, senior advisor on climate, energy and environmental issues, Office of California Governor Jerry Brown, State of California. “To help achieve this ambitious goal, the governor called for doubling the rate of efficiency savings over the next 15 years — on top of the huge energy savings that California has accomplished over the past 40 years. We look forward to ACEEE tracking our progress towards achievement of that goal in upcoming State Scorecards.”
Maryland, Illinois, the District of Columbia, and Texas were recognized for improvement over the past year. Maryland increased its commitment to energy efficiency in 2015 by establishing new, more aggressive energy savings targets for utilities. Illinois is one of the first states to adopt the newest building energy codes, and has increased the amount of energy efficiency available to utilities through procurement agreements with the Illinois Power Agency. Like Illinois, Texas has been aggressive in adopting the latest building energy codes, and has also taken notable actions to ensure code compliance across the state. The District of Columbia is among the most improved for the second year in a row, due to its progress across a number of policy areas and the ramping up of DC Sustainable Energy Utility programs.
“As states move to frame their plans under the federal Clean Power Plan, this year marks a tipping point for energy efficiency,” said ACEEE executive director Steve Nadel. “State policies are increasingly encouraging utilities to invest in cost-effective efficiency, prompting them to adopt new business models that align their interests with those of customers and policymakers. We can see this taking hold in the 20 states that improved their Scorecard rank in 2015. Utilities across the United States invested more than $7 billion in energy efficiency over the past year alone.”
Overall, 16 states fell in the rankings this year, due to such factors as policy or program rollbacks or failure to keep pace as other states expanded efficiency efforts. The five states most in need of improvement are: North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Louisiana, and Mississippi, although new efficiency programs in Louisiana and Mississippi mean these states may not be in the bottom for much longer. While not in the bottom five states, New Mexico dropped the farthest in 2015, losing four points and falling six positions from 25th to 31st in the rankings. This is due in part to the state’s failure to adopt energy building codes beyond the 2009 requirements. Many of the states falling behind are not increasing energy savings year after year, and are therefore being outpaced as other states ramp up programs to meet higher savings targets.
Other Key Findings
- The State Scorecard assesses state policies and programs that improve energy efficiency in homes, businesses, industries, and transportation systems. It considers the six policy areas in which states typically pursue energy efficiency: utility and public benefits, transportation, building energy codes and compliance, combined heat and power (CHP), state government-led initiatives around energy efficiency, and appliance and equipment standards.
- Savings from electricity efficiency programs in 2014 totaled approximately 25.7 million megawatt-hours (MWh), a 5.8% increase over last year. These savings are equivalent to about 0.7% of total retail electricity sales across the nation in 2014. Gas savings for 2014 were reported at 374 million therms (MMTherms), a 35% increase over 2013.
- The leading states in utility-sector energy efficiency programs and policies in 2015 are Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. These are the same three states that topped this category in 2014. With long records of success, all three continued to raise the bar on cost-effective programs and policies.
- California, Massachusetts, and New York led the way in energy-efficient transportation policies. Massachusetts promoted smart growth development in cities and municipalities through state-delivered financial incentives. New York is one of the few states in the nation to have a vehicle-miles-traveled reduction target.
- The leading states in building energy codes and compliance in 2015 are California and Illinois. Only four states — California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland — have adopted the latest commercial and residential building energy codes without significant weakening amendments.
- Massachusetts, Maryland, and California were the highest ranked for combined heat and power policies.
- California, Illinois, Minnesota, and New York led the way in state government initiatives.
As in past years, the ninth edition of the State Scorecard ranks states on their policy and program efforts, not only assessing performance but also documenting best practices and recognizing leadership. The State Scorecard provides an annual benchmark of the progress of state energy efficiency policies and programs. It encourages states to continue strengthening their commitment to efficiency, thereby promoting economic growth and environmental benefits.