Massachusetts held the top spot for the fourth consecutive year and North Dakota again brought up the rear in the latest annual assessment of state energy efficiency efforts. In between, there was a lot of movement on the 2014 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, both positive and negative – Arkansas leaped six places to 31st, while Indiana fell 13 places to 40th.
Overall, the group behind the ratings, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said states (and the District of Columbia) were doing a better job taking advantage of energy efficiency, which it called “a resource that is cleaner, cheaper, and quicker to deploy than building new supply.” The ACEEE said state programs helped trim electricity use by 24.3 million megawatt-hours in 2013, equal to the annual energy use of about 2 million homes and a 7 percent improvement over 2011. Gas savings totaled 276 million therms, nearly 20 percent more than in 2011. (Take the quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Energy Efficiency.”
Still, the ACEEE said plenty of “low-hanging fruit” remained for states to grab – and they could be inspired to harvest those opportunities if the Obama administration’s proposed rule for existing power plants becomes reality. Energy efficiency mechanisms are a cornerstone option offered to states in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Plan. (See related story: “4 Key Takeaways From EPA’s New Rules for Power Plants.”)
“States will have a lot of flexibility in using energy efficiency” in pursuit of their emissions-reductions targets, said ACEEE state policy research analyst Annie Gilleo, lead author of the scorecard. One key tool states could embrace, she said, was energy efficiency resource standards (EERS), which require utilities to formulate programs to meet specific, long-term energy savings targets.
It was the elimination of the state’s EERS that torpedoed Indiana’s rating in the latest scorecard. Ohio did likewise, and it fell seven places.
Arkansas, meanwhile, made its gains through “strong utility programs” spurred by the first EERS in the Southeast. The ACEEE said “budgets for electric efficiency programs increased 30 percent between 2012 and 2013” in Arkansas, leading to a tripling of electricity savings. (See related story: “Coal-Dependent Arkansas Faces Stiff Emissions Target and a Running Clock.”)
This is the eighth year the ACEEE has rated states on energy efficiency – in a separate report, the group critiques national efforts among 16 major economies. Germany ranked first in the latest international report, with the United States far down the list at No. 13. (See related story: “Germany Tops Energy Efficiency Scorecard While U.S. Lags.)
The ACEEE said the State Energy Efficiency Scorecard is based on six broad policy areas – utility policies and programs, transportation initiatives, building energy codes, combined heat and power development, state government-led initiatives, and state-level appliance standards.
While Massachusetts has owned the top spot in the rankings since 2011, other states have been as strong or stronger over full span of the ratings. California, which was second this year, has been in the top five all eight years, as has Oregon, which was third this year. Rounding out this year’s top 10 were Vermont and Rhode Island, which were tied with Oregon in third place, followed by Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Washington, Maryland and Minnesota.