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October 21, 2011
Ignoring Stalemate in Congress, States Still Embrace Energy Efficiency
    by Robert Kropp

Massachusetts displaces California in the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's fifth study of states' energy efficiency efforts.

The economy may be a disaster, and Congressional has failed to come up with a meaningful national energy policy, but it hasn't stopped states from taking energy efficiency measures to reduce costs, create jobs, and benefit the environment.

That's the conclusion of the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), which for the fifth time has ranked states according to their leadership in energy efficiency policies and programs. In fact, "As they have over the past decades, states continue to provide the leadership needed to forge an energy-efficient economy," the new edition of ACEEE's State Energy Efficiency Scorecard says.

Despite the acrimonious debate in Washington, the report says, state governments led by either major party supported legislation improving energy efficiency. For example, a bill in Colorado was sponsored by the Republican legislature and signed by the Republican governor. Major legislation was also enacted in Republican strongholds such as Maine and Texas, as well as in traditionally Democratic states such as New York.

"The message here is that energy efficiency is a pragmatic, bipartisan solution that political leaders from both sides of the aisle can support," said ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel.

For the first time in five years, California is no longer the leading state for energy efficiency measures. That designation now belongs to Massachusetts, which edged out California with a score of 45.5 out of 50 points. California scored 44 points. The rest of the top four consists of New York and Oregon; five states tied for the fifth-leading score. In the top ten for the first time is Maryland, which was also honored as being one of the most improved states.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick attributed the state's top showing to its Green Communities Program. "We set aggressive goals and laid the foundation for greater investment in energy efficiency -- and now we are proud to be a model for the nation and world," he said.

On the other side of the coin, the worst-performing states are North Dakota, Wyoming, Mississippi, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Alabama, even though it ranked in the lowest ten, was also honored for being among the most improved.

The Scorecard's methodology assesses states' performance in six areas: utility and public benefits programs and policies; transportation policies; building energy codes; combined heat and power; state government initiatives; and appliance efficiency standards.

The key findings of the report, which confirm that states continue to consider energy efficiency as a key strategy, include:
• Total budgets for electricity efficiency programs increased to $4.5 billion in 2010, up from $3.4 billion in 2009, and are likely to continue to grow;
• 29 states—up from 20 in 2010 and only 10 in 2009—have adopted, or are making significant progress toward adopting, the latest energy-saving building codes for homes and commercial properties;
• 24 states have adopted an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS), which sets long-term energy savings targets and drives utility-sector investments in energy efficiency programs;
• States have reduced financial, technical, and regulatory barriers to adoption and deployment of combined heat and power (CHP) systems; and
• Leading stated have adopted policies to reduce vehicle miles traveled and promote the purchase and manufacture of efficient vehicles.

Despite overall improvement, the report concludes, "A wide gap remains…between states near the top and those at the bottom of the Scorecard rankings. Because of market barriers and the regulated nature of the energy sector, a regulatory environment that energy efficiency is critical to reach its full potential."


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