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Northeast States Claim Top Spots in the 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard

BOSTON – Northeast states performed well in the 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, with Massachusetts taking the top spot for the 9th consecutive yearaccording 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 savingsno 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 businesslowered consumer energy billslimited 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 salesone 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 outLike 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 efficiencyMaine 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 standardsNew 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. 

 


Media Contacts: 

 Erika Niedowski, RI Director and Energy Efficiency Lead
eniedowski@acadiacenter.org, 401.276.0600 ext. 401 

 Krysia Wazny McClain, Communications Director
kwazny@acadiacenter.org, 617.742.0054 ext. 107 

New Era of Natural Gas Exports Raises Concerns for Northeast

President Trump’s “Energy Week” address today is expected to express strong support for U.S. exports of natural gas, currently on the rise. For the Northeast, these exports exacerbate the risks of the region’s already-dangerous overreliance on a fossil fuel that has a history of volatile prices and will not allow the region to reach its commitments to reduce greenhouse gases.

With the arrival two weeks ago in Taiwan of a liquified natural gas (LNG) tanker ship loaded with American natural gas, June has been a month marked with milestones for the nascent export industry in the United States. Preceding this delivery by a few days were the first ever U.S. LNG shipments to Poland and the Netherlands. U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry deemed those events significant enough to warrant a statement from his office. These deliveries from a new LNG export facility in Louisiana signify a new era for the natural gas industry in this country, and residents of Northeastern states should be paying attention to these events.

This export plant, the Sabine Pass LNG Terminal, is the first of several such facilities planned to be constructed or converted from import use. When it is fully online, it will be able to liquify nearly 1,300 billion cubic feet (bcf) per year of natural gas. Five other facilities under construction in Hackberry, Louisiana, Freeport, Texas, Corpus Christie, Texas, Elba Island, Georgia, and Lusby, Maryland, will be able to liquify twice that volume. In total, these facilities will be able to liquify and export the equivalent of 15% of current U.S. natural gas consumption. Several additional projects have been approved but are not yet under construction.

Having this large a portion of U.S. natural gas consumption subject to world market prices will likely have an impact on markets at home. Such a rapid surge in demand will likely increase domestic natural gas prices. What does this mean for Northeastern states? They need to carefully scrutinize analyses of any projected benefits from natural gas conversions or new natural gas infrastructure projects in the region. The levels of promised savings may never materialize if rapidly increasing LNG exports drive up natural gas prices. The risk of these projects as proposed is almost always borne by ratepayers—the utilities or other project developers will earn their guaranteed return on investment, paid for eventually by electric or gas ratepayers, but the savings are not guaranteed.

Natural gas already stands as one of the main obstacles to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the region, and concerns have been raised that subsidized pipelines could facilitate exports from facilities in Eastern Canada that—like Sabine Pass—were first built for imports. Tying domestic prices to volatile international markets layers on more risk.

The region’s policymakers should continue to proceed cautiously before committing their ratepayers to years of payments for large fossil fuel infrastructure projects whose tenuous savings can easily be wiped out by changing market conditions. All proposed projects should be evaluated against the possibility that other available resources can meet the Northeast’s energy needs without growing the region’s overreliance on natural gas. Northeast states need to consider energy efficiency, solar and wind generation, and conversion of fossil fuel heating and transportation systems to electric-powered alternatives. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 project shows the benefits of embracing energy sources that are indigenous to the Northeast region. With the expansion of U.S. natural gas in world markets, the economic benefits of local clean energy will likely only grow.

Massachusetts looks to make winter sunsets later

While potential energy savings are disputed, panelist Peter Shattuck said after Congress in 2005 extended daylight saving time by several weeks, energy consumption during that additional period decreased by 0.5 percent.

“If people don’t have to turn on the lights as early, they use less electricity,” said Shattuck, Massachusetts director for the Acadia Center, an energy and environmental advocacy group.

Read the full article from the Portland Press Herald here.

Massachusetts weighs doing away with winter time shift

While potential energy savings are disputed, panelist Peter Shattuck said after Congress in 2005 extended daylight saving time by several weeks, energy consumption during that additional period decreased by 0.5 percent.

“If people don’t have to turn on the lights as early, they use less electricity,” said Shattuck, Massachusetts director for the Acadia Center, an energy and environmental advocacy group.

Read the full article from the Associated Press (reprinted in several local papers) here.

Now Beacon Hill may mess with time

Peter Shattuck, Massachusetts director of the Acadia Center, an environmental advocacy group, said the federal government experimented with shifting time patterns in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The law extended daylight savings time by four weeks – three extra weeks in the spring and one week in the fall. He said a report on the experiment indicated the nation as a whole shaved electricity consumption by .5 percent and by .7 percent in New England.

“That’s a pretty big impact,” said Shattuck, noting that energy savings resulted primarily because people use more energy at night than they do in the morning. By extending daylight hours, people use less electricity, he said.

Shattuck said he wasn’t troubled by Massachusetts acting unilaterally, suggesting other New England states might follow the Bay State’s lead. “We have to start the discussion somewhere,” he said.

Read the full article from Commonwealth Magazine here.

Energy forum to spark discussion Wednesday night at GNB Voc-Tech

All of those topics and others will be on the table at Wednesday’s free forum, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School on Ashley Boulevard. The forum is a collaborative effort between the Marion Institute; Acadia Center, a nonprofit, multi-state organization that advocates for the development of clean energy; and other partners.

Panelists include Milkman; Claire Miller, lead community organizer for the Toxics Action Center; Roger Cabral, of South Coast Neighbors United; and Peter Shattuck, clean energy director for Acadia Center’s Massachusetts office.