By Ed Burke, Dennis K. Burke Inc.
For the fifth straight year, Massachusetts was named the national leader in energy efficiency, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) in its ninth annual state scorecard.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker praised the state’s number one ranking, saying “Being recognized for the fifth year by ACEEE as the nation’s leader in energy efficiency underlines the commitment we have made to reduce ratepayer costs and provide a balanced and diversified energy portfolio for now and the future. Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective, accessible way for Massachusetts to meet our clean energy and climate goals, and help our citizens manage their energy costs.”
A nonprofit founded in 1980, ACEEE’s mission is to advance energy efficiency as a fast, cheap, and effective means of meeting energy challenges. Most folks are probably more familiar with ACEEE for their GreenerCar ratings that come out each year. The ACEEE State Scorecard assesses state policies and programs that improve energy efficiency in our homes, businesses, industries, and transportation systems.
So how do the consumers benefit? Among the advances in the last 35 years, ACEEE says the fuel economy of passenger vehicles has improved by more than 25 percent, and energy losses in electric transmission and distribution system has been cut by more than a quarter.
ACEEE estimates that utility spending for electric and natural gas efficiency programs in the U.S. reached $7.3 billion in 2014, and will reach $15.6 billion by 2025.
Savings from electricity efficiency programs in 2014 reached approximately 25.7 million MWh – a 5.8 percent increase over 2013. Gas savings for 2014 were reported at 374 million therms – a 35 percent increase over 2013.
So what kind of return are we getting? According to ACEEE, a new analysis of the nation’s energy consumption as it relates to economic activity suggests that efficiency measures saved the U.S. about $800 billion in 2014.
The trend continues to gain traction as more states adopt energy efficiency policies and targets. Energy efficiency programs and spending is likely to increase as states draft plans to comply with EPA’s Clean Power Plan.
ACEEE credits the Commonwealth’s top ranking based on a strong commitment to energy efficiency under the state’s Green Communities Act. The 2008 mandate requires the implementation of three-year energy efficiency plans for gas and electric utilities, among other measures.
Increasing its score from 2014 by two points, Massachusetts holds its top spot in the 2015 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, earning 44 out of a possible 50 points. The ACEEE scorecard considers six policy areas in which states typically pursue energy efficiency.
Utilities: Massachusetts earned a perfect score (20 points) for its utility-sector programs and policies for the second straight year. Utilities report high levels of investments in both electricity and natural gas programs, and the state achieved electricity savings of over 2.4 percent this past year.
Transportation: The state earned 8.5 points out of 10 points for transportation policies. Policies like efficient fleets in state government initiatives, tailpipe emissions standards, targets to reduce vehicle-miles-travelled, and a dedicated transit revenue stream. The state also offers consumers incentives for the purchase of high efficiency vehicles.
Building Energy Codes: Massachusetts earned 6 points out of 7 for its building energy code stringency and compliance efforts.
Combined Heat & Power: The Commonwealth scored 4 out of 4 points for its combined heat and power policies to encourage CHP deployment, including incentives and financing programs. Seven new CHP installations were completed in 2014.
State Government-Led Initiatives: Massachusetts scored 5.5 out of 7 points for state-led energy efficiency initiatives. The state offers grants, rebates, and bond programs to promote investments in energy efficiency. The state leads by example by setting energy requirements for public buildings and fleets, as well as benchmarking energy use.
Appliance Standards: The state scored 0 out of 2 possible points for appliance standards. Although it has maintained standards in the past, Massachusetts does not have appliance efficiency standards in place beyond those that are federally required.
So how did our neighboring states do? The other New England states also saw high marks on the scorecard, with Vermont ranking third, Rhode Island ranking fourth, Connecticut ranking sixth and Maine ranking 14th. New Hampshire trailed with the 20th spot.
The Commonwealth’s plans for 2016-2018 are currently being finalized. The plans are poised to keep Massachusetts in a position to continue to lead the nation in energy efficiency and to provide benefits for its ratepayers and consumers.
However, ACEEE has noted that Massachusetts will need to continue promoting energy efficiency measures to maintain its position as a national leader. With other states close on its heels and committed to improving energy efficiency, Massachusetts will need to continue achieving high levels of savings in the utility sector; commit to continually updating building codes; and work to better benchmark energy use in the private sector.
Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson proudly noted “This recognition is the result of collaboration between many public and private stakeholders in transportation, technology, building, and energy providers that is setting a higher bar for the future.”