How Does Your State Rank in ACEEE’s 2019 Energy Efficiency Scorecard?
While the White House works to roll back national energy savings efforts, many state legislatures and governors are establishing the transition to clean energy and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as their top priority. According to the 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), U.S. states are taking the lead in clean energy initiatives and adopting ambitious goals and energy-saving rules for buildings, appliances, and vehicles.
The Scorecard is now in its 13th edition and ranks individual state policy and program efforts as well as assesses performance, documents best practices, and recognizes leadership. The report captures the latest policy developments and state efforts to save energy, and highlights opportunities and policy tools available to governors, state legislators, and regulators.
According to the Scorecard, many legislatures and governors across the U.S. established, as a top priority in 2019, the transition to clean energy and reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and increased their efficiency efforts to help achieve it with a concerted effort to promote electric vehicles, efficient products, smart buildings, cold climate heat pumps, and zero-energy building codes. While leading states like Massachusetts, California, and New York continued to innovate, there has been an increasing commitment at the state level to energy efficiency, the least-expensive clean energy resource, even in places where it had traditionally been overlooked. Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, New York, and Maine all adopted 100% clean energy goals coupled with plans to ramp up efficiency investment.
A record number of states adopted new efficiency standards for a variety of products and equipment, some in direct response to the federal rollback of standards for light bulbs. In Virginia and New Jersey, utilities unveiled significant expansions of efficiency program portfolios in response to game-changing clean energy bills passed in 2018. State legislatures in Colorado, Washington, and Hawaii adopted new appliance standards in the most significant state-level standard adoption this decade.
The Scorecard Leaders
The leaders in this year’s Scorecard include Massachusetts, California, Rhode Island, Vermont, and New York. Maryland was the most improved state, and other significantly improved states include Hawaii and New Jersey.
For the ninth year in a row, Massachusetts led the State Scorecard primarily due to the Green Communities Act, a 2008 state law that established building codes and efficiency targets for utilities. The state continues to achieve among the highest levels of utility savings in the nation. Regulators recently approved a new three-year efficiency plan, with expanded programs that aim to reduce statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% by 2050.
California is right behind Massachusetts, having implemented groundbreaking programs to improve the efficiency of vehicles, homes and appliances. In 2019 the state adopted new standards for products like air compressors and portable air conditioners.
Rhode Island and Vermont tied for third. Last year Rhode Island adopted a voluntary residential stretch code promoting goals to cut emissions 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 under the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014.
Vermont was recognized by the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR® program for the success of the new Efficiency Vermont Marketplace, a recently launched online tool to help customers research efficient appliances and electronics.
New York state made the top five again this year as policymakers and program administrators recently enacted the New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which sets one of the nation’s most ambitious climate targets: 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040 and economy-wide net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The laggards include Kentucky, North Dakota, and Wyoming. Kentucky lost 4.5 points, dropping nine positions to 38th place, the largest point loss and fall in the rankings in 2019. Much of the state’s tumble is due to the state public service commission’s decision last year to discontinue almost all of Kentucky Power’s demand-side management programs.
Sixteen states fell in the rankings this year due to several factors, such as greater progress by other states and changes to the scoring methodology in several categories.
Two trends were identified among the states losing ground. First, many are not increasing energy savings year after year. States losing ground also typically have not fully implemented changes to the utility business model that encourage utilities to take full advantage of energy efficiency as a resource. Second, opt-out provisions have been approved in many of the states falling behind. These provisions allow large customers to avoid paying into energy efficiency programs, forcing other customers to subsidize them while limiting savings is achieved by utilities.
“State leadership on energy efficiency is more important than ever for ushering in the low-carbon future we need,” said ACEEE executive director Steve Nadel. “If states embrace robust energy-saving measures nationwide, Americans can slash greenhouse gas emissions by 50% and deliver more than $700 billion in energy savings by 2050. We commend the top states for their clean energy leadership and urge states that are lagging to implement the strategies laid out in this report so they can deliver energy and cost savings for their residents.”
The Scorecard Process
The Scorecard awards a total of 50 points based on state policies and programs in six areas: utilities, buildings, transportation, state government, combined heat and power, and appliance standards. It highlights best practices for promoting energy efficiency, typically the lowest-cost way to meet customers’ energy needs. Such efficiency improves air and water quality, strengthens grid resilience, promotes equity, improves health and comfort, and helps address the climate challenge.