A rising number of states are showing US leadership on clean energy by adopting ambitious goals and energy-saving rules for buildings, appliances, and vehicles, according to the 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released recently by the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. This 13th annual report identifies the leaders – Massachusetts and California; the most-improved states, notably Maryland; the states that lost ground such as Kentucky; and those lagging behind, including North Dakota and Wyoming.
The 50-state Scorecard reveals increasing state commitment 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 passed 100 percent clean energy goals, along with plans to increase 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. States have also countered the federal plan to weaken vehicle efficiency by promoting electric vehicles and adopting California’s vehicle emissions standards, which now face a precarious future.
“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 percent 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, which ranks states on 33 metrics in six policy areas, found that some states are moving backward but most are stepping forward:
Maryland improved the most since the 2018 Scorecard, moving up three spots to seventh place and gaining 4.5 (out of a possible total 50) points. The state made significant gains by focusing on utility efficiency programs, stronger building energy codes, public transit funding, and electric vehicle adoption. Hawaii also improved considerably, gaining 2.5 points, thanks in part to a new law that sets efficiency standards for products not covered at the federal level, including computers, faucets, and showerheads.
Massachusetts ranked first for the ninth year in a row. Earlier this year, its regulators approved a new three-year efficiency plan with expanded programs that aim to reduce statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 80 percent by 2050. California, a close second, remains a national leader, setting tailpipe emissions and appliance standards that other states have adopted. Rounding out the top 10 are Rhode Island, Vermont, New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington.
New York and New Jersey are states to watch because of their robust clean energy goals and focus on efficiency. Their utilities and regulators continue to strengthen efficiency programs to meet new savings targets approved last year. New York adopted one of the most aggressive US climate targets, aiming to slash energy consumption 185 trillion Btu by 2025 and achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040. New Jersey, which officially rejoined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in June, has a first-of-its-kind state partnership to promote electric vehicles.
Ohio, in contrast, fell in the rankings. It enacted a law this year that attempts to save the state’s aging power plants but guts energy efficiency and renewable energy standards. This is particularly disappointing because prior ACEEE research found that Ohio was one of the states with the most health benefits to gain from efficiency standards, which could save it up to $1.6 billion in avoided health impacts.
Kentucky fell the furthest in the rankings, dropping from #29 to #38 and losing 4.5 points, due to a 2018 decision that discontinued most of the consumer-facing management programs for a key state utility, Kentucky Power. Other utilities in the state have also seen major cuts to their program funding.
From coast to coast, states are taking concerted effort to promote electric vehicles, efficient products, smart buildings, cold climate heat pumps, and zero-energy building codes:
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.