BOSTON – Northeast states performed well in the 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, with Massachusetts taking the top spot for the 9th consecutive year, according to rankings released by the nonpartisan American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Rhode Island and Vermont tied for #3. New York and Connecticut ranked #5 and #6, respectively.
Maine was ranked #15, and New Hampshire improved a spot to #20.
The region’s strong showing is largely due to state policies requiring programs to pursue all energy efficiency that is cost-effective, rather than defining a proscribed level of funding. In addition, several states across the region have begun to implement policies that address new opportunities and challenges in energy efficiency, such as using additional efficiency investments to lower costs associated with peak times of demand for energy and a fuel-neutral approach that gives consumers access to incentives and savings, no matter whether they use electricity, heating oil, or gas in their homes.
“Energy efficiency is a cornerstone of the clean energy economy in the Northeast and beyond. Efficiency has reduced the cost of doing business, lowered consumer energy bills, limited the need to build costly new energy infrastructure, and provided healthier, more comfortable spaces to live and work,” said Daniel Sosland, Acadia Center president. “But there’s much more efficiency to be captured in the region, including for traditionally underserved sectors like low-income customers. States need to continue to support strong efficiency policies – and the next generation of energy efficiency – so the Northeast can capture these substantial benefits for consumers and the environment.”
Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective way to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector. Over the last decade, strong efficiency policies and programs have helped the Northeast lower carbon pollution while providing a range of economic and public health benefits.
The ACEEE rankings, released annually, are based on scoring in categories including state government initiatives, building efficiency policies, utility and public benefits programs, transportation policies, and appliance standards. ACEEE awarded Massachusetts a perfect score in the utility program category, particularly praising the programs’ contribution as the largest contributor to achieving the state greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals.
“Over the last nine years, Massachusetts’ strong customer-funded efficiency programs have grown the economy while saving ratepayers money and cutting emissions – and they’ll continue to do so. But Massachusetts could do more to take full advantage of other policies to ensure that our buildings, homes, and transportation are as efficient as possible,” said Amy Boyd, senior attorney at Acadia Center and a member of the Massachusetts Energy Efficiency Advisory Council. “One of the most effective ways to achieve efficiency savings – and more greenhouse gas reductions – is through improved appliance standards. Particularly with the Trump Administration’s freeze on updating the federal standards, it is even more important to push for higher efficiency in the standards that states control.”
Rhode Island maintained the #3 spot for the third year. With strong state policy that prioritizes investments in energy efficiency over traditional energy supply, Rhode Island last year achieved electric savings of 2.75%, relative to total electricity sales, one of the highest levels in the country. Efficiency programs have saved Rhode Islanders $1.32 billion in energy costs since 2008. Like Massachusetts, Rhode Island earned no points in the appliance standards category, as appliance standards legislation has repeatedly stalled at the statehouse.
Vermont, meanwhile, moved up one spot, to tie Rhode Island at third, rounding out the top tier of states aggressively pursuing all cost-effective energy efficiency.
Much More to be Done Across the Region
As in recent years, there was a sizable gap between the top efficiency performers and the second tier of states, underscoring that other states in the region must do much more to reduce energy use and minimize consumers’ costs.
New York moved into the #5 spot, scoring relatively well on transportation and building efficiency policy and in state government initiatives. But the state has significant room for improvement in maximizing and procuring new cost-effective energy efficiency through utility and public programs. New York in 2018 set a new energy reduction target of 185 trillion BTUs by 2025, but critically important utility energy savings targets and other details of implementation are still being worked out. Like Massachusetts, New York is using a fuel-neutral approach designed to better align efficiency program goals with state policy goals such as decarbonization.
Connecticut, which slipped one spot to #6, continued to suffer the effects of a massive fund raid in 2017 that seriously weakened energy efficiency programs and the efficiency workforce.
“Connecticut’s well-established energy efficiency programs are capable of delivering significant energy and utility bill savings to customers,” said Amy McLean Salls, Connecticut Director at Acadia Center and a member of the state’s Energy Efficiency Board. “Connecticut’s path forward must include robust energy efficiency investments that make homes and businesses more efficient, support the transition from dirty heating fuels to high-efficiency electric heat pumps, and expand peak demand management. Next-generation efficiency policy should include larger heat pump incentives and strong customer and vendor education programs to help overcome barriers to heat pump deployment.”
Maine’s #15 ranking reflects in part that it can do more to expand energy efficiency access and savings for Maine homes and businesses, including setting more aggressive energy savings targets and capturing additional cost-effective efficiency. Maine has led the nation in deployment of clean, efficient electric heat pumps and has a new goal of installing 100,000 heat pumps by 2025. Maine could also improve its programs – and rank – by adopting the most recent building energy code and passing appliance standards.
New Hampshire implemented the first year of its Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in 2018, putting it on a path to reduce energy waste. But at #20, the state still ranked relatively low this year due to several factors, including a lack of commitment to transportation efficiency and appliance standards. New Hampshire has seen a modest increase in efficiency gains from utility programs but spending on energy efficiency has only begun to ramp up. The legislature failed to overturn a requirement that it approve any increase in the efficiency charge, creating an additional hurdle to achieve all cost-effective efficiency.
The Scorecard is available at: https://aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard.
Erika Niedowski, RI Director and Energy Efficiency Lead
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Krysia Wazny McClain, Communications Director
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