With all the hype 
surrounding sustainable energy, it would be easy to assume the transition to alternative-energy practices has the momentum it needs to carry itself forward. It would be just as easy to assume, as far as that same transition is concerned, that government intervention is unnecessary.


In reality, the new energy movement is a long way from being self-sufficient, and government incentives, whether positive or negative, are still needed.


Consider the case of energy-efficiency standards. According to new data, these standards are having a significant impact in the states where they have been adopted. In April, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released a report that highlights the results of standards adopted in 26 states.


According to the report, “Energy Efficiency Resource Standards: A New Progress Report on State Experience,” the 
standards that have been adopted in these states have saved enough electricity to power 2 million homes for a year. The standards contribute to savings by encouraging utilities to adopt a variety of programs, ranging from appliance rebates to whole-building retrofits.


The report analyzes energy efficiency targets adopted in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.


ACEEE notes that, while the state standards have demonstrated their effectiveness, they have not been universally embraced. It cites several examples of states that have scaled back or eliminated their standards. The report rebuts arguments against the effectiveness of standards, asserting, for example, that saving energy through efficiency improvements is much cheaper than building a new power plant.


The report offers some other key findings. It observes that states with adopted standards not only reached but actually exceeded their target savings. According to the report, the states planned to save a total of more than 18 million megawatt-hours of electricity in 2012 but actually saved more than 20 million megawatt-hours.


ACEEE added that, if the 26 states continue to meet their savings targets, their combined annual electricity savings from their efficiency standards will be equivalent to 6.2 percent overall electricity sales in the United States in 2020.