Regardless of what the federal government does or does not do in the coming months and years to incentivize and otherwise promote energy efficiency initiatives, most states are continuing to ramp up their own efforts.

Each year, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks states on their energy efficiency policy and program efforts. Criteria include utility and public benefits programs and policies, transportation policies, building energy codes, combined heat and power (CHP) policies, state government-led energy efficiency initiatives, and appliance/equipment standards.

The top 10 states in this year's ACEEE "State Scorecard" are California and Massachusetts (tied for first), Vermont, Rhode Island, New York and Connecticut (tied for fifth), Oregon, Washington, Maryland, and Minnesota.

"Governors, legislators, regulators, businesses, and citizens are increasingly recognizing that energy efficiency is a critical state resource that keeps money in the local economy," said Steven Nadel, ACEEE's executive director.

Unlike many state rankings (e.g., those that rank states on business-friendliness, most desirable to retire, etc.), which tend to remain relatively stable year after year, state energy efficiency rankings are likely to remain in a state of flux, as many states that failed to make the top 10 this year are becoming significantly more active in this area.

Illinois (currently ranked 13) is an example. Recently, that state's general assembly passed the most significant piece of climate and clean energy legislation ("Future Energy Jobs" bill) in the state's history, which will, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), give Illinois the distinction of having "one of the top energy efficiency programs in the entire nation." The bill focuses on three areas: energy efficiency, renewable energy, and a zero-emissions standard.

Another example is Iowa (currently tied for 15, with the District of Columbia and Hawaii), which recently passed the Iowa Energy Plan, which focuses on four areas: economic development and energy careers, energy efficiency and conservation, the state's energy resources, and transportation and infrastructure. The state government now envisions a state economy that is driven primarily by energy research and production.