The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) just released their annual scorecard for the most energy-efficient states. The rankings were based on public policy initiatives taken by each state that “encourage the efficient use of energy in the utility, buildings, industry, transportation, and public sectors.”
The scorecard is a roundup of programs and initiatives that are maintained in their database, which is based on extensive input from state energy offices, public utility commissions, private sector energy efficiency program administrators, advocacy organizations (NGO), energy consultants and federal officials.
The criteria used in the assessment (shown with their respective weights) include: Utility public benefit programs and policies (40%), Transportation policies (18%), Building energy codes (14%), State government initiatives (14%), Combined heat and power (10%) and Equipment efficiency standards (4%).
The results show the following states as the ten most efficient with the number of points earned (out of a possible 50):
- Massachusetts (43.5)
- California (40.5)
- New York(39)
- Oregon (37.5)
- Vermont (35.5)
- Connecticut (34.5)
- Rhode Island
- Washington (33)
- Maryland (32)
This was the second consecutive year for Massachusetts to claim the top spot after overtaking California last year. The difference was their ratings for Utility and Public Benefit Programs and Policies, and Combined Heat and Power. They were a full two points ahead of any other state in both categories.
The bottom ten were (starting with the lowest ranked):
- Mississippi (2.5)
- North Dakota (4)
- West Virginia (6)
- South Dakota (8)
- Alaska (8)
- Kansas (8.5)
- Nebraska (9.5)
The first question I had was whether these policies actually result in reduced energy consumption. Based on electricity usage data from 2010 on a state-by-state basis, six of the ACEEE’s top ten states, were also in the top ten for the lowest actual usage. Number one was California, which consumed 6,721 kWh per person.
At the other end of the spectrum, five of the bottom ten states were among the ten most power hungry, led by Wyoming, which consumed 17,290 kWh per person, a full 2.5 times as much as California. Wyoming was fourth from the bottom in ACEEE’s list, edging out West Virginia, South Dakota and Mississippi with slightly better policy. The only state that was completely uncorrelated was Alaska, which was sixth from the bottom in ACEEE’s list, but was fourth from the top in consumption. I guess they don’t use much air conditioning up there and don’t see much need to change anything either.
With so much politics in the air, this being October and all, I couldn’t help wondering if there was any correlation between energy efficiency policy and the party affiliation of the governors. There was. In fact, nine of the ten most efficient states have a Democratic governor. The only non-Democrat was Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, who is an independent (and also co-chair of Obama’s re-election campaign). Conversely, at the bottom end, nine of the ten states have Republican governors. The outlier here is West Virginia, whose governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, is a Democrat.
Grist did a similar analysis where they compared the ACEEE rankings with the projected 2012 electoral map showing red and blue states.
Thinking about West Virginia and Wyoming made me wonder about coal. Do coal states tend to ignore energy efficiency as a policy priority? Well, if we look at the top 20 coal producing states, 6 of them are among the ACEEE’s bottom ten, whereas, only one state in the top ten, Maryland, is a major coal producer, ranked 19th nationally for coal production. Kentucky, which is number three in coal production, was number two in electric consumption, though ACEEE ranked it number 36 with 13.5 points. This is due to demand side management programs offered by Duke Energy, efficiency programs from rural electric cooperatives and state government initiatives.
Oklahoma. Montana and South Carolina were ranked most improved.
I think the main takeaway here is that unlike the federal government, which is mired in political posturing and heavy lobbying, the states are more free to do what to anyone (who isn’t being paid to think otherwise) will recognize as common sense. Energy efficiency is a win-win all the way round. It saves money, creates jobs, increases our energy independence, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, all at a cost (2.5 cents per kWh) that is less than the cost of electricity. News like this makes you glad that we do have both state federal governments that both have the power to make a difference.
[Image credit: Courtesy of ACEEE]
RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining format. Now available on Kindle.
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