Many changes—both positive and negative—have occurred at the state level regarding energy efficiency, according to the 2018 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
Some states including Virginia, New York and New Jersey are boosting investments in clean energy and energy efficiency due to increased
concerns regarding climate change. Other states are working just to keep efficiency standards in place, responding to a possible loosening of federal vehicle and appliance standards. On the opposite side of the spectrum, states like Iowa and Connecticut passed legislation that have resulted in lowered energy efficiency metrics.
“Despite a few setbacks, reasons for optimism remained abundant,” the authors write. “Across the country, new opportunities for efficiency and distributed resources continued to arise through improved data access, policy innovations, and technological advancements like smart control systems, geographic targeting, electric vehicle grid integration and energy storage.”
States spent roughly $7.9 billion on energy efficiency in the utility sector in 2017 and saved close to 27.3 million megawatt-hours, a 7.3 percent increase from 2016, according to the scorecard.
“Overall, plenty of signs are pointing to policymakers’ growing appreciation of efficiency’s economic and environmental benefits and its role in strengthening the grid and transitioning to a clean energy economy,” the authors write.
The scorecard, which ranks states based on 32 metrics in six areas, has these key findings:
- New Jersey improved the most, moving up five ranks to No. 18. The Garden State set new annual energy savings targets and took steps to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a multistate cap and trade emissions compact. Missouri, Connecticut, Colorado, and South Dakota showed marked improvement. Other improved states include Nevada and North Carolina.
- Massachusetts continued to rank No. 1 overall. It launched a plan to set new three-year energy savings targets and approved utility spending for grid-scale modernization. A close second is California, which led efficiency efforts in three areas: buildings, transportation and appliances. These leaders are followed by Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Minnesota, Washington and Maryland.
- Iowa fell the most, moving down five spots to No. 24. This drop was due mostly to a bill signed earlier this year (SF2311) that imposes a restrictive cap on efficiency programs and allows customers to opt out of paying for some of them. Sixteen other states also fell in the rankings.
- States ramped up efforts to promote zero-emission vehicles (ZEV), mostly electric, as the federal government sought to freeze fuel economy standards for cars and SUVs. California joined with eight other states in rolling out an updated ZEV plan, which incentivizes consumers to buy ZEVs. Missouri moved to incentivize the rollout of more EV charging stations, and Oregon to require new buildings be ready to charge EVs.
- More states pushed for zero-energy construction (buildings that produce as much power as they use) largely through tougher building codes. California calls for all new homes and commercial buildings to be net zero-energy by 2020 and 2030, respectively. Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, Washington, the District of Columbia and Massachusetts have incorporated net-zero-energy construction into long-range plans.