CREDIT: AP Photo/Toby Talbot
Massachusetts has done it again. For the third year in a row, the state has won the coveted top spot on the annual energy efficiency state scorecard released on Wednesday by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.
Coming in a close second was California, followed by New York, Oregon and Connecticut.
While still ranking in the bottom five for energy efficiency, alongside North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Alaska, Mississippi managed to triple it’s score and seize the title of “most improved.” Illinois also stood out as having made considerable progress, rising to the top ten list for the first time in the seven year history of the report.
The ACEEE state energy efficiency scorecard grades states based on six policy areas: utility and “public benefits” programs, transportation policies, building energy codes and compliance, combined heat and power policies, appliance and equipment standards, and state government-led initiatives around energy efficiency.
Massachusetts has held onto its lead due in large part to the continued implementation and growth of the programs put in place in 2008 with the passage of the Green Communities Act. This landmark law required utilities to increase investment in energy efficiency measures, mandated the design and implementation of three-year energy efficiency plans for gas and electric utilities, required that 15 percent of electricity be supplied by new renewable power facilities by 2020, established a pilot program for utilities to enter into long-term contracts with renewable energy developers and encouraged green building design through updated codes, training, and assistance.
Last summer, the Mississippi Public Service Commission unanimously passed groundbreaking energy-efficiency rules. These new rules, which are projected to save utility customers $2 billion over the next 20 years and create 9,500 private sector jobs, are credited with bumping up the state’s score. The rules include new incentives to upgrade to high-efficiency appliances, energy audits and retrofitting of homes and businesses.
CREDIT: American Council For An Energy-Efficient Economy
“We are really proud of the progress that Mississippi has made in the past year and we intend to lead this region in energy efficiency in the future,” said Mississippi Public Service Commissioner and Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners President Brandon Presley on a conference call announcing the scorecard. “Every dime we can help keep in a Mississippi pocket, is a dime that we can help grow our local economy. Two out of every three jobs are created by small businesses in this state, and besides employment, their biggest overheads are utility bills. Helping those folks save money helps us all.”
“States look into energy efficiency for a number of different reasons,” said Annie Downs, state policy research analyst at ACEEE and lead author of the 2013 report. “It could be rising demand, reliability issues and/or climate concerns. What I think a lot of state in the Southeast like Mississippi are coming to realize is that it is also an economic development issue.”
The U.S. energy efficiency landscape may change significantly before next year’s state scorecard is released. A number of utilities are announcing the retirement of power plants grandfathered in under previous emission standards. With power plants shuttering in multiple states, energy efficiency may be the quickest and most cost effective way for many states to make up the deficit.