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Which States Rank Highest on Energy Efficiency Efforts? Latest Results May Surprise

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The latest ranking of states’ energy efficiency policies and programs is out, and many of the results are what you’d expect. (Hint: the Red Sox aren’t the only winners in this neck of the woods.) But there are some surprising results worth checking out—including shout-outs for Mississippi, Illinois, and others.

Energy efficiency is about as low a low-hanging fruit as you can find on the how-to-save-money-cut-carbon-and-increase-resilience tree. So the annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard from the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy is always worth noting.

ACEEE's state energy efficiency scorecard shows strong action in many states, and progress elsewhere.

ACEEE’s state energy efficiency scorecard shows strong action in many states, and progress elsewhere.

The scorecard is ACEEE’s benchmarking of what states are doing on energy efficiency, in terms of policies and programs, “as a pragmatic and effective strategy for promoting economic growth, securing environmental benefits, and increasing their communities’ resilience in the face of the uncertain costs and supplies of the energy resources on which they depend.”

Two noteworthy slices of the ACEEE findings are who’s on top, and who’s making the biggest strides.

Most Advanced

This year, as in the past, the head of the class is chiefly Northeast and West Coast states. Massachusetts takes the top spot for the third year in a row (not that we’re keeping track, or anything…), with California an almost-photo-finish second. The Top 10 list also includes: New York, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, Maryland, and Illinois.

Not surprisingly, the six Northeastern/Mid-Atlantic states among the Top 10 are all states that helped launch the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) in 2009. Under that initiative, power plants have to pay for the right to emit carbon, and states then use that money for smart investments.

That approach and the latest rankings show that they are pioneers in not just cutting carbon, but also doing it in a way that makes economic sense and drives economic development — including through heavy investments in energy efficiency. A recent report on RGGI investments from 2009 to 2011 found that they would generate “an estimated $1.3 billion in lifetime energy savings.” All while cutting carbon pollution equivalent to a year’s worth from two million cars.

Energy efficiency - air-sealing

Credit: J. Rogers

Illinois is a notable new entrant to the list of high performers. The Prairie State’s first time in the Top 10, says ACEEE, is chiefly the result of its strong energy efficiency resource standard, its good building codes (and enforcement), and other state government-led efforts.

Most Improved

Also noteworthy are the states on the steepest upward trend. The most-improved states in this year’s rankings were Mississippi, Maine, Kansas, Ohio, and West Virginia. All gained ground because of progress in various areas:

  • Mississippi, for example: “In 2013, the Mississippi legislature passed laws setting a mandatory energy code for commercial and state-owned buildings, and began implementing enhanced lead by example programs.”
  • Ohio: “Efforts to ramp up utility programs to meet energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) targets resulted in dramatically increased electricity savings… (even despite significant pushback efforts).” (See here for more on the pushback, and the successful pushback against the pushback.)
  • Kansas and West Virginia: Both “committed to improving building codes, significantly increasing their scores in that policy area.”
  • Maine: Maine moved up “due to legislation passed in June 2013 that returned full funding to Efficiency Maine for implementation of energy efficiency programs after several years in which programs had been under-funded.”

Focus on Mississippi

Tied with South Dakota and Alaska for 47th place in the rankings, Mississippi clearly has a long way to go. But it’s making some important progress, ACEEE found, and how they’re doing that, and what it means, are worth noting.

Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley credited the state’s progress to a “bi-partisan effort by the Commission to move Mississippi ahead… by focusing on solutions and fixing the problems facing our state.”

As for where it’s heading, Commissioner Presley has this to say:

Cutting down on energy waste has become an integral strategy for securing Mississippi’s energy future… Investing in energy efficiency helps utilities meet growing energy demand, provides reliable service for our customers, and produces economic benefits like energy cost savings. We look forward to seeing Mississippi emerge as a regional leader in tapping the vast economic benefits of energy efficiency.”

Sounds like a great goal to me. Embracing energy efficiency is making for better days ahead for states across the nation. Understanding how the states stack up is important for getting all 50 on board and moving forward.

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About the author: John Rogers is a senior energy analyst with expertise in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies and policies. He co-manages the Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative (EW3) at UCS that looks at water demands of energy production in the context of climate change. He holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan and a bachelor's degree from Princeton University. See John's full bio.

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2 Responses

  1. Jason Taylor says:

    According to Michael Blasnick (unofficially)- who gets to look at energy bills all across the country and see what works- the best single county for energy reductions is Athens Ohio.
    When I asked him why, he seemed to think it is because they have access to everyone’s energy bills and so they can target the large ones. They also make contractors go through a training like we do in Massachusetts.
    Blasnick says they average an actual 40% reduction of heating bills.
    I am dieing to do a road trip this summer to Athens Ohio just to see if I can learn anything from them. For some strange reason, my wife is kinda lukewarm on the idea…

    • John Rogers says:

      Thanks for those thoughts, Jason (and for all your energy efficiency work). Information and training are both powerful tools for getting things right.

      As for vacationing: I’ve managed to end up wind-rich — and wind turbine-rich areas — of the U.S. and Canada each of the last two summers (as I talked about in a whalewatching/windwatching blogpost here). Maybe it’s time to look into an energy-efficiency roadtrip next time.