National Rankings Highlight Leadership of Northeastern States’ Energy Efficiency Programs
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
firstname.lastname@example.org, 401.276.0600 ext. 401
Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
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Acadia Center Applauds New England’s Continued Nation-Leading Progress on Energy Efficiency
BOSTON — The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a national nonpartisan organization, released its 2017 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard today, with Massachusetts holding the #1 rank for the seventh straight year, Rhode Island climbing to #3, Vermont at #4, and Connecticut at #6. Maine and New Hampshire were ranked #13 and #21, respectively.
New England states’ rankings in the category of utility and public benefit efficiency programs are even more impressive. Together, these programs represent the single largest state policy-driven impact on greenhouse gas emissions in the region. The efficiency investments driven by these programs have brought tremendous energy and bill savings to the region’s residents. They have also halted the growth of peak electric usage and its associated need for expensive new transmission projects. Rhode Island was first in this category, followed by Massachusetts, Vermont, and Connecticut. Maine was ranked twelfth, and New Hampshire sixteenth.
“Maximizing efficiency is a major step toward putting the region on the path to the clean energy future detailed in Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 report. The New England states are showing that deploying least-cost, non-polluting measures effectively reduces the need for expensive fossil fuels. The leading states are successfully using this approach to spur economic development while also benefitting the environment and consumers, who enjoy lower costs and healthier, more comfortable spaces in which to live and work,” said Dan Sosland, Acadia Center President.
Massachusetts is leading the way with a current 3-year efficiency plan (2016‑2018) that is expected to deliver $8.1 billion in economic benefits and energy savings, as well as environmental benefits equivalent to removing approximately 408,000 cars from the road. The plan sets annual savings goals (2.93% of sales for electric and 1.24% of sales for natural gas) that are the highest in the nation, yet again. In 2016, Massachusetts programs far exceeded these goals, achieving savings of 3.34% of sales for electric efficiency.
“Massachusetts holds the first-place ranking alone this year—and for an amazing seven years running—but there is still plenty of work to do to make the most of this low-cost, clean resource,” said Amy Boyd, Senior Attorney at Acadia Center. “We should applaud our success, but not rest on our laurels. We must return to the hard work that it takes to accelerate strategies to reach the homes and businesses that still need help lowering their energy costs,” Boyd said. “Making smart use of all the data that new technologies can provide will reduce costs, make processes more transparent and keep us on track to stay on top of the evolving ACEEE scoring criteria.”
Rhode Island’s Least Cost Procurement law is primarily responsible for the state’s continued leadership on energy efficiency. First implemented a decade ago and extended for another five years in 2015, the policy states that distribution companies cannot acquire new electric or natural gas supply until “all cost-effective” energy efficiency measures have been exhausted. However, recent actions by Rhode Island state government, including a diversion of $12.5 million in ratepayer funds collected for energy efficiency, will make it difficult for the state to maintain its ranking next year.
“By investing in low-cost energy efficiency instead of expensive electricity and natural gas, Rhode Island lowers energy bills and spurs economic growth,” said Erika Niedowski, Rhode Island Policy Advocate with Acadia Center. “Energy efficiency reduces the cost of doing business in Rhode Island, and when residents spend less money on energy, they have more left in their paycheck to spend locally on other things.”
A widening gap has emerged between the electric efficiency programs of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont and other states, with Vermont achieving 65% more savings than Connecticut. These three leading states have fully embraced efficiency as a resource, just like electric generation, and are choosing the lower-cost option of efficiency. The second tier of energy efficiency performers, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire, finished the year with a mix of improved performance in some areas and need for improvement in others. Maine continues to achieve respectable savings levels and leads the nation in the deployment of clean, efficient heat pumps, despite a difficult political environment for clean energy. New Hampshire’s new Energy Efficiency Resource Standard promises to finally put that state on a path to reducing energy waste. Even with this progress, New Hampshire, as well as Connecticut and Maine, have plans to achieve only about half the electric efficiency savings that Massachusetts did in 2016.
“Connecticut dropped a spot to #6 this year, an indication that its historical commitments to energy efficiency are not enough. As other states are making big gains, Connecticut is only cutting half the energy waste it can,” said Kerry Schlichting, Connecticut Policy Advocate with Acadia Center. “Leaving these savings on the table is a loss for residents and businesses. Officials should reevaluate opportunities for future efficiency gains through increasing savings targets, addressing languishing appliance standards and tackling energy waste in state buildings.”
“It is unfortunate to see that Maine’s ranking dropped for the first time in five years, falling two spots to #13,” said Acadia Center Maine Policy Advocate Kathleen Meil. “As other states ramp up their commitment to energy efficiency, Maine’s drop demonstrates that standing still means falling behind.”
“Despite the temporary dip in savings and spending in 2016 for both the electric and natural gas programs, New Hampshire’s new Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) promises to finally put that state on a path to reducing energy waste,” said Ellen Hawes, Senior Analyst at Acadia Center.
“New England is on the right path, far ahead of some other regions, but there is still work to do to make the most of this clean resource. The states need to find better ways to weatherize older buildings, integrate new technologies, and accelerate strategies to reach all types of homes and businesses,” said Jamie Howland, Director of Acadia Center’s Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Initiative.
As a member of efficiency stakeholder boards in multiple states, Acadia Center looks forward to working with fellow members, utilities and other stakeholders to make sure that the plans are implemented effectively to deliver cost savings through lower utility bills, emissions reductions, and clean energy job growth, in addition to broader economic benefits.
See the Scorecard at: http://www.aceee.org/state-policy/scorecard
Jamie Howland, Director, Energy Efficiency and Demand Side Initiative
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Krysia Wazny, Communications Director
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