Spotlight on States and Communities

Blog Post | August 18, 2010 - 2:59 pm

As hopes for comprehensive national energy policy melted away this summer, focus shifts back to states and communities.

Without action from Congress, states and local communities will continue to forge ahead with a multitude of strategies to make their economies more energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable. It’s nothing new in fact; states have guided the nation’s energy policy for decades with innovative and aggressive energy efficiency solutions. Local communities are also stepping forward, complementing state action to engage local leaders and show the benefits of energy efficiency at the “ground level."

This year we reached a new high point in state energy efficiency policy. Twenty-four states—double the number from 2006—now have long-term energy efficiency targets, called Energy Efficiency Resource Standards (EERS), that require electric or natural gas utilities or other program administrators to meet a percent of their energy sales through efficiency savings.

The 24 states deliver over half of the retail electricity produced in the United States and with state EERS policies now on the books, the country will save nearly 6% of our total retail electric sales by 2020. In order to achieve these targets, states are forging ahead with ambitious programs to retrofit homes and buildings, foster competitive businesses, and begin transferring to a low-carbon economy through cost-effective energy efficiency investments.

States continue to raise the bar in their energy efficiency each year, leaving some states at risk of being left behind. In 2009, states budgeted about $4.3 billion for energy efficiency programs, more than double the expenditures made in 2006.

However, about 75% of these investments are concentrated in only 15 states. Enormous potential remains in every state to use cost-effective energy efficiency as a tool for economic development by saving consumers money, which can be reinvested in local and state economies.

ACEEE continues to support energy efficiency at the state level through a host of research and policy analysis tools.

We publish an annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard and maintain a comprehensive and up-to-date database of state energy efficiency policies. We also provide targeted policy and technical assistance and state efficiency potential assessments through our “State Clean Energy Resource Project.” This year we completed in-depth reports for North Carolina and Arkansas and began work in Missouri, which will be our tenth state study completed over the past four years.

Local and regional metropolitan efforts for energy efficiency are expanding faster than ever before. Federal grants of $3.2 billion from the 2009 stimulus bill are helping local governments improve their energy planning capacity and implement new energy efficiency programs. The Sustainable Communities Partnership, a joint effort between three federal agencies, U.S. DOE, EPA, and HUD is attempting to integrate energy efficiency with local urban planning, housing, transportation, and environmental policies.

In 2010, ACEEE for the first time launched local and community energy efficiency support efforts, including technical assistance to local and state stimulus grantees as members of the DOE Technical Assistance Center and targeted research and technical assistance to local leaders such as the Greater Cincinnati Energy Alliance.