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Report: MA, VT, NY Lead In Energy Efficiency

A map outlines the placement of each state in the ACEEE 2019 Scorecard.

A new scorecard says Massachusetts, Vermont, and New York are among the most energy efficient states in the country.

The 13th annual American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy report reviews states’ efficiency initiatives and policies on utilities, transportation, building codes, appliances, and combined heat and power.

The council’s Senior Director for Policy, Maggie Molina, says energy efficiency is the least-expensive clean energy resource, and considers the scorecard an “annual benchmark.”  

“We collect a large amount of data to assess both how states are performing collectively, and also for states to compare their own progress against their peers – and in doing so, spurring some friendly competition," says Molina. 

Massachusetts placed first for the ninth year in a row on the strength of its 2008 Green Communities Act and Global Warming Solutions Act calling for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions statewide by 2050. State Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Judith Judson says energy efficiency is one of the biggest parts of that plan, with the majority of the state’s 110,000 clean energy jobs in the efficiency sector. Massachusetts has one of the highest electricity savings in the country, and Judson says its new three-year plan takes it even further.

“The plan sets the highest natural gas savings goals to date," she explains. "We have shifted our electric efficiency programs to focus on overall energy reduction, rather than just electricity reduction, through new a multiple-savings-goal framework that includes overall, and then BTU, reduction.” 

Like a number of states did this year, Judson says Massachusetts adopted the 2018 International Energy Conservation Code. Vermont, which tied with Rhode Island for third place, plans to adopt those building rules soon. Vermont was cited in the rankings for its electricity and natural gas savings, and its appliance standards – which the council estimates will save consumers an annual 435 million gallons of water and 59 million kilowatt-hours of electricity by 2025.

One of the biggest trends this year was energy targets. Senior Research Analyst Weston Berg, who led the report, says several states passed 100 percent clean energy bills. 

“Up until 2019, it was primarily California and Hawaii that had adopted 100 percent targets," he notes. "Since then we’ve seen New York, New Mexico, Washington and Maine added to that list – as well as Puerto Rico and D.C. Many of these states also include efficiency as a core part of their decarbonization strategies.”

Berg says New York’s target pushed it up to Number 5 on the scorecard. The New York goal is one of the most aggressive in the country, aiming to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 and cut energy use by 185 trillion BTU. Berg lists New York as a “state to watch” – along with New Jersey, which touts a state partnership to promote electric vehicles. Berg says vehicle efficiency has been another hot topic this year.

“At a time when the federal government is moving forward with plans to revoke California’s waiver to set its own standards, other states’ adoption and support of California’s standards is more important than ever," he explains. "Currently 13 states and D.C. have adopted their THC standards, with 10 adopting its Zero Emissions Vehicle program.”

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy counts Massachusetts in both those groups, the state having long adopted California’s THC, or total hydrocarbons, standards. Ultimately, Berg and the ACEEE say the U.S. can cut greenhouse emissions by 50 percent by 2050 by embracing stronger efficiency standards.  

“Overall, nationally, we’ve seen state-level savings and investment in energy efficiency remain fairly level this year, with $8 billion in utilities spec per spending on efficiency, and more than 27 million megawatt hours in annual savings reported from measures implemented last year," Berg notes. 

Other top-performing northeastern states include Connecticut, which placed sixth. New Jersey and New Hampshire ranked 17th and 20th, respectively. You can find the full report here

Jesse King is the host of "51%" and a producer for WAMC's afternoon news programs. She also produces the WAMC podcast "A New York Minute In History."
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