Massachusetts beat out California again as the leading state on energy efficiency programs, according to the sixth annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard compiled by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
The Massachusetts Green Communities Act of 2008 sets the most aggressive targets for energy efficiency in the country through its Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS). Similar to a Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, EERS requires utilities to raise their efficiency each year to meet an eventual target.
Massachusetts has established energy efficiency as the state's 'first-priority' energy resource. Utilities have to offer rebates and other incentives for customers to upgrade lighting, air conditioning, and industrial equipment to more efficient models, whenever those incentives cost less than generating the electricity it would take to power their older, less-efficient equipment.
Here are the other Top 10 states on energy efficiency:
- New York
- Rhode Island
Mississippi got the lowest scores for efficiency, followed by North Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana, and Nebraska.
Oklahoma, Montana, and South Carolina improved the most from last year because they significantly increased their budgets for electric efficiency programs in 2011.
Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania also increased their budgets and showed improvements in energy efficiency.
The ACEEE scorecard rates the 50 states and District of Columbia on their implementation of policies and programs that encourage the efficient use of energy across their economies. It looks at six primary policies: utility and "public benefits" programs; transportation; building energy codes; combined heat and power (CHP); state government-led initiatives; and appliance and equipment standards.
This year's ranking is based on policies in place as of September 2012, so it doesn't account for New York's latest energy-efficiency initiative - $30 million to encourage development of energy efficient technologies.
24 states have adopted and adequately funded the all-important Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS), which sets long-term energy efficiency targets and drives investments in utility-sector energy efficiency programs. The states with the most aggressive targets are Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
10 states have adopted energy efficiency codes for new building construction that exceed the IECC 2009 or ASHRAE 90.1-2007 codes for residential and commercial building construction. Maryland and Illinois have adopted an even more stringent code, the 2012 IECC.
Both Parties Support Statewide Policies
In most states, Republicans and Democrats alike are working together to advance energy efficiency initiatives because of their positive impact on job creation and their demonstrated ability to save money for businesses and local governments, says ACEEE.
"These findings show that energy efficiency is being embraced by Republicans and Democrats alike at the state level. That nonpartisan status is crucial because too many conversations about U.S. energy policy begin with the false premise that the only way to safeguard our reliable energy future is to expand our supply," says Steven Nadel, executive director of ACEEE. "While some supply investments will be needed, the truth is that step one should always be energy efficiency, our cheapest, cleanest, and fastest energy resource."
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin ties her state's energy efficiency efforts to its ability to support other programs: "As governor of Oklahoma, making government smaller, smarter, and more efficient is among my top priorities. Energy inefficiency wastes natural resources and tax dollars that could otherwise be used for essential services like education, transportation, and public safety. Thanks to efficiency programs by our state utilities, state tax incentives for more energy-efficient construction, and our state plan to achieve 20% energy savings by 2020 among all state agencies and entities, Oklahoma is one of the most-improved states on this year's ACEEE scorecard."
The positive impact of national programs was demonstrated last week when the US Department of Energy announced that more than 1 million low-income households have been weatherized thanks to the Recovery Act. Households typically save $400 annually on their electricity by cutting energy consumption an average of 35%.
Other measures, such as federal energy efficiency standards for a wide array of equipment, from light bulbs to vehicle fuel economy are surprisingly controversial, with many in the current GOP perpetuating the myth that they put an undue burden on consumers and businesses despite the potential for long-term savings.
Here's this year's ACEEE scorecard: