Forgive me for making partisan political plugs in this most political of seasons, but the states that consistently vote for Democratic party candidates also lead the nation in energy efficiency efforts according to a recent study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Their annual report and ranking of statewide initiatives is funded by the U.S. government through the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to the ACEEE report, California tops the list of U.S. states employing energy efficiency as the “first fuel” to grow their economies while meeting electricity demand, combating global warming, and contributing to U.S. energy security. California was followed by Oregon, Connecticut, Vermont, New York, and Washington. Minnesota and Massachusetts tie for seventh place with Wisconsin and New Jersey rounding out the final two spots in the top ten. The top 14 states in the analysis (all blue but two) also spend quite a bit more than the remaining 36, contributing more than 75% to the total expenditure pie. A Scorecard Webcast is available at the ACEEE website.
Measuring Eight Initiatives
The analysis ranks states on a broad array of energy efficiency policy initiatives. Maximum score on the analysis is 50 points adding together the maximum score of all eight initiatives. Top ranked California received a score of 40.5, for example. Bottom ranked Wyoming received a score of 0. The eight initiatives include:
* Utility-sector and public benefits efficiency programs and policies
* Transportation and land use policies
* Building energy codes
* Combined heat and power (CHP)
* Appliance efficiency standards
* Energy efficiency in public buildings and fleets
* Research, development, and deployment (RD&D)
* Financial incentives for efficient technologies
But to be fair, the ACEEE analysis is not a political exercise. Instead it provides a comprehensive energy efficiency scorecard to document best practices and recognize leadership among the states. The scorecard can serve as a means of benchmarking state efforts, with the goal of encouraging states to continue to raise the bar in efficiency commitments. It also provides a roadmap for states that want to catch up to the leaders. Explains Executive Director Steven Nadel:
“Our scorecard offers the states a blueprint for greening up both the environment and the economy, and it is becoming evident that more and more policymakers are realizing that it is not only the socially responsible thing to do, but it is also fiscally prudent.”
For me two key points emerge from the study: the prominent role of efficiency in overall energy policy, and the significance of state leadership in this area. Efficiency is the only resource that can help states actually reduce energy consumption to combat rising energy demand and prices. Compared to other “fuels” in the energy portfolio, efficiency is less expensive, cleaner, and quicker to implement. Digging your average oil well takes 10 years, for example. By shrinking the overall reliance on energy supply, efficiency measures also allows new, clean energy resources – such as wind and solar technologies – to make up a growing slice of state energy portfolios.
States are leading the nation in advancing energy efficiency policies and programs. Collectively, the states spend two to three times more than the federal government on these programs. States are the laboratories for new initiatives, and implementation happens at the state level, regardless of what the federal government is doing. State leadership in this area highlights the importance of the ACEEE study — to recognize and document best practices among the states, both to encourage other states to follow and to encourage federal action to catch up.
Oh, and one more partisan dig to wrap up: Wyoming, home state of Dick Cheney, the crafter (kind of like the decider) of the Bush energy policy, received a score of zero (that’s right “0”) in the analysis.
The ACEEE is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing energy efficiency as a means of promoting economic prosperity, energy security, and environmental protection. For more information about energy efficiency initiatives at the state level, see their State Energy Efficiency Policy Database on the Web.
Jim Witkin is a writer and researcher focusing on social enterprise and ICT4D. He can be reached at email@example.com.