Earlier this month, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) released its 2019 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard. The scorecard and accompanying report rank all fifty states and the District of Columbia on energy efficiency policy and programs. Each year, the state scorecard gives state policymakers and industry stakeholders an opportunity to evaluate state-level changes from the past twelve months. It also breeds competition among states committed to moving up the rankings.
The Efficiency Scorecard allots points to states in categories ranging from transportation policies to appliance efficiency standards, with the largest weight assigned to utility and public benefits programs and policy. In both the leadings states and overall consistent growth, the 2019 scorecard showed a continuation of the trends that have defined our industry for years. Massachusetts continued its reign at the top of the scorecard, earning top marks for the ninth consecutive year. The top three states – Massachusetts, California, and Rhode Island – have held steady since 2016. Twenty-two states improved their score from last year and the overall score across the states inched upward slightly from the 2018 efficiency scorecard.
Several states made waves for changes in their rankings. Tennessee leapt the most in the rankings despite minor changes in its evaluations. Lackluster growth of efficiency and declining scores in states like Idaho, Missouri, and Ohio, not any improvement or new initiatives in the Volunteer State, spurred Tennessee’s leap in the rankings. The real climber in 2019 was Maryland, which gained 4.5 points on the back of across-the-board expansion of legislative targets, building efficiency, transportation efficiency, and energy codes. Kentucky fell furthest in the 2019 rankings. Decisions by the state’s public service commission crippled utility efficiency programs and caused per capita spending on efficiency to fall to $5.43, 42nd in the country ($15.21 was average).
Rather than summarize the entire scorecard (that’s what the report is for!), we have chosen to highlight developments in the states where Lime Energy is most active. These states – New Jersey, Ohio, and New York – all made headlines for energy efficiency developments in the last year. In their own ways, these states will be bellwethers for the future of state efficiency policy and programs.
2019 Ranking: 17 (+1)
2019 Score: 24 out of 50 (+2.5)
Major Development: 2018 Clean Energy Act, PSE&G energy efficiency plan filing
Strength: Building codes, new energy savings targets
Area for Improvement: Creating programs to hit targets, per capita spending
New Jersey is a state with tremendous opportunity. The state’s 17th place ranking is buoyed by its high score in building codes and recent policy changes in Trenton. Thanks to strong policies spearheaded by Governor Phil Murphy, no state can match New Jersey’s combination of potential energy savings and a near-term pathway to achieve those savings. However, those savings remain unrealized. New Jersey was the only state to score more points for its Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (2 out 3) than for its actual electricity and gas savings (2.5 out of 10). This is because, despite its steady ranking, New Jersey ranks among the worst states in per capita energy efficiency. New Jersey remains a middle-of-the-pack state because of its commitment to a variety of strong standards, with the potential to soar in these rankings by as early as next year. But without action from utilities and the Board of Public Utilities, that potential will remain unrealized and New Jersey will be unable to regain its former position as a leader in energy efficiency.
2019 Ranking: 33 (-4)
2019 Score: 14 out of 50 (-1.5)
Major Development: Passage of House Bill 6
Strength: Electric savings, ratepayer-funded efficiency incentives
Area for Improvement: Preserving the energy efficiency resource standard
Ohio is New Jersey’s opposite in the 2019 ACEEE State Scorecard as policy initiatives push the two states in different directions. Earlier this year, Ohio legislators passed and Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 6 (HB6), a bailout of the coal and nuclear plants that gutted Ohio’s EERS as collateral damage. Nearly half of Ohio’s points on the scorecard come from utility program savings and strong financial incentives to encourage utility customers to participate in those programs. Due to HB6, possibly the worst energy bill of the 21st century, both of those are now in jeopardy. While utilities and a mysterious influx of money and lobbying combined to secure the passage of HB6, clean energy advocates are hoping voters will block its enactment on the ballot in 2020. If HB6 causes Ohio utilities to roll back their efficiency offerings, however, Ohio could plummet further in the 2020 rankings.
2019 Ranking: 5 (+1)
2019 Score: 37 out of 50 (+1.5)
Major Development: New York Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act; PSC Order clarifying state goals
Strength: Transportation and building policies
Area for Improvement: Appliance efficiency standards
Like New Jersey, New York passed sweeping clean energy legislation in 2018 calling for a massive acceleration of energy efficiency investment and implementation across the state. Unlike New Jersey, New York already had strong efficiency programs. The Empire State has already provided clarification on how to achieve its ambitious goals and has a stronger history of achieving diverse and innovative clean energy solutions. If California is driving the development and deployment of the next generation of energy efficiency program models and customer solutions, New York is not far behind. The state must act quickly to achieve its lofty goals, but the pieces are in place. New York shares all of New Jersey’s potential to climb further in future rankings without any of the Garden State’s recent history of disappointing energy efficiency investment.