Policy and Funding Challenges Remain
BOSTON – Northeast states continued their nation-leading performance in the 2018 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released today by the nonpartisan American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Massachusetts ranked #1 for the eighth straight year, Rhode Island remained at #3, and Vermont, Connecticut and New York ranked #4, # 5 and #6, respectively.
Maine and New Hampshire ranked #14 and #21, respectively.
“Energy efficiency is a cornerstone of the clean energy economy in the Northeast and beyond. Leading states in the region are successfully demonstrating that non-polluting energy efficiency lowers consumer utility bills, reduces the cost of doing business, and provides healthier, more comfortable spaces to live and work,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center president. “All states must continue to prioritize energy efficiency so that these benefits reach additional residents while sharply reducing emissions to meet climate targets.”
In addition to a strong overall performance on the Scorecard, New England states performed particularly well in the category of utility and public benefits programs, which are operated on behalf of utility customers. Together, these programs represent the single largest state policy-driven impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the region. Due in large part to energy efficiency gains, electric consumption in New England has declined over the past few years even as the population and economy have grown. Energy efficiency investments have brought billions of dollars in energy and utility bill savings to consumers and businesses and helped halt the growth of peak electric use. Increasing investments in efficiency has made nearly $500 million of expensive transmission line upgrades no longer necessary in New England.
Leading the charge with low-cost efficiency
Massachusetts and Rhode Island tied for first in the utility program category, followed by Vermont and Connecticut at third and fourth, respectively.
With strong customer-funded efficiency programs, Massachusetts and Rhode Island have achieved the country’s highest electric savings rates – at least 3% of retail sales last year – and demonstrated the significant potential that exists for cost-effective efficiency investments. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 report shows that, on average, if all Northeast states achieved at least 2.5% annual efficiency savings, efficiency would reduce emissions from electricity generation in line with regional climate targets and offset the additional electricity from increased electric vehicle and heat pump adoption.
“Massachusetts has shown over the last eight years of first place rankings that making effective use of efficiency can grow the economy while saving ratepayers money and cutting carbon emissions. Even so, Massachusetts can do more to maximize this low-cost, clean resource,” said Amy Boyd, senior attorney at Acadia Center and a member of the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council. “Many residents – particularly renters – and businesses need more help lowering their energy costs, and the efficiency programs can play a crucial role in transitioning ratepayers off fossil fuels.”
Rhode Island held the #3 spot overall despite state government action in 2017 that diverted $12.5 million in ratepayer efficiency funds and forced an additional $10.7 million in program cuts this year. Rhode Island’s continued strong showing stems from a state law that prioritizes investments in energy efficiency over traditional energy supply when efficiency is cost-effective and less expensive.
Policy opportunities for lagging states
The gap between the elite efficiency performers and the second tier is significant, as in prior years. While Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont are fully embracing cost-effective efficiency, neighboring Northeast states could do more to show a sustained commitment to efficiency that would reduce energy consumption and minimize consumer costs.
Connecticut took a major step backwards on efficiency in 2017, for instance. Under extreme fiscal pressure, the state diverted $127 million in ratepayer funding for efficiency to the budget’s general fund.
“Connecticut has high-quality, award-winning energy efficiency programs that deserve real praise for helping the state earn the #5 ranking,” said Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut Director and Senior Policy Advocate with Acadia Center. “However, Connecticut can, and should, do more to improve its actual energy efficiency savings levels. Connecticut has slipped down regionally on this all-important metric and will need to ramp up its energy efficiency savings goals in coming years to protect its strong in-state efficiency industry and to meet its aggressive climate targets for 2020 and 2030. As a necessary first step to increasing Connecticut’s efficiency ambitions, the Governor and General Assembly should undo the devastating fund raid imposed by legislators last year.”
Although New York moved up a spot in the Scorecard to #6 overall, it too continues to lag best-practice states, with current annual utility savings levels roughly one-sixth of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. In April, New York announced a plan to reduce energy consumption by 185 trillion BTUs from forecasted levels by 2025, but important details such as utility savings targets and funding sources have yet to be worked out. Acadia Center has offered four recommendations that, if implemented, would strengthen the likelihood of achieving the 2025 energy efficiency target.
“New York should be commended for seeking to jump-start its efficiency efforts,” said Cullen Howe, Acadia Center’s New York Director. “But now it needs to follow through by setting aggressive but achievable targets and ensuring that efficiency’s many consumer and environmental benefits are realized.”
Maine’s dip from #13 to #14 reflects the impact of inconsistent funding and regulatory uncertainty, despite the achievement of reasonable energy savings levels. Maine continues to lead the nation in deployment of clean, efficient electric heat pumps, thanks in part to leadership from Efficiency Maine, the independent administrator of the state’s efficiency programs. The three-year energy efficiency plan currently under review is an opportunity to secure steady, long-term commitments that expand energy efficiency access and savings for Maine homes and businesses and improve economic security.
Despite implementing the first year of the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in 2018, New Hampshire maintained the same relatively low rank as last year, primarily because spending on energy efficiency has not fully ramped up. The EERS puts New Hampshire on a path to reducing energy waste, and the state should progress in future rankings as it pursues more efficiency.
The 2018 Scorecard did recognize New Hampshire’s efforts to target significant energy efficiency funding to low-income communities.
The Scorecard is available at: https://aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard
Erika Niedowski, RI Director and Coordinator, Energy Efficiency Initiative
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Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
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