The State Current: ACEEE Helps States out of the Middle, into the Lead

The economic, energy, and climate challenges facing states have spurred innovative policies aimed at reducing energy consumption and increasing the use of clean energy resources. A handful of states have enacted bold energy efficiency measures such as the energy efficiency resource standard (EERS) as well as other policies geared towards industry, commercial, residential, and transportation sectors. Yet, the list of states setting aggressive energy efficiency agendas is far from complete. A growing number of states currently reside in a “middle class,” as revealed in ACEEE’s annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, though many are looking to increase their current, limited commitments to efficiency and clean energy or take their first steps toward a sustainable energy future. These states are the focus of ACEEE’s State Clean Energy Resource Project (SCERP), where ACEEE and its team of energy experts develop an energy efficiency and clean energy “roadmap” of policies or programs, quantifying the energy savings potential, costs and benefits, and job impacts from energy efficiency. ACEEE staff then work directly with local stakeholders to encourage implementation and follow-through of the suggested strategies.   

States on the cusp of real energy efficiency action generally have a few common characteristics. A political champion is often present in the governor’s office, state legislature, state energy office, or public utilities commission. In Virginia and Florida, for example, Governors Kaine and Crist were important champions for the pursuit of energy efficiency strategies. Another essential requirement is wide support from in-state stakeholders including governmental and regulatory bodies, foundations, and environmental advocacy groups. These stakeholders have two critical roles in the SCERP process. First, they provide their input and perspective to help ACEEE researchers gain a full understanding of the specific issues in the state, collect data, and build relationships. The second role is to help implement the policy and program suggestions made in the study.

ACEEE also uses its annual State Energy Efficiency Policy Scorecard to determine the best candidates for a SCERP study. The Scorecard ranks states based on a broad range of criteria including utility-sector policies, building codes, vehicle and smart growth policies, and combined heat and power (CHP). States in the lower or middle tiers of the rankings that are poised to move ahead with energy efficiency policies are considered prime candidates. The project also aims to work with states with high energy consumption to make the greatest impact.

Since 2007, ACEEE has completed studies for Texas, Florida, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania as part of our State Clean Energy Resource Project and has also contributed to analyses for Utah and New Mexico. Studies currently underway in North Carolina and South Carolina provide new opportunities for ACEEE to focus heavily on transportation efficiency in North Carolina and water efficiency in both studies.

For more information on the State Clean Energy Resource Project and other ACEEE state policy projects, visit www.aceee.org/energy/state/resources.htm. Also, read ACEEE's new report, Efficiency In Action: ACEEE and State Energy Policy, for an overview of past SCERP projects and the resulting state accomplishments.