State-led energy efficiency efforts have made significant progress this year, particularly energy efficiency resource standards (EERS), or policies that require long-term energy savings. ACEEE has been tracking EERS policies for many years, and the past few have been a bit of a rollercoaster. Beginning in 2004, several states a year committed to EERS targets, and by late 2010 we counted twenty-six states with EERS policies in place. But, like any good roller coaster ride, the upward climb was followed by a downward drop.
In 2012, several states lost traction when it came to implementing their policies. In Maine, regulators significantly underfunded Efficiency Maine, rendering energy savings targets ineffective. In Connecticut, efficiency programs faced similar budget constraints, when only about half of the funding necessary to achieve the state’s all cost-effective efficiency mandate was approved.
We’re happy to say that this year energy efficiency is gaining ground again. Largely due to leaders who understand the real financial and environmental benefits of maximizing energy efficiency, we’ve seen the number of states with EERS policies in place creep upward again. In July, we were happy to announce that Maine was back on our list, having fully funded Efficiency Maine programs when legislators overrode the governor’s veto of a major energy bill. Now, we’re glad to add Connecticut back into our EERS count.
Governor Dannel Malloy has focused on energy as a priority for the state, introducing his Comprehensive Energy Strategy in early 2013. In July, the state legislature passed a bill modeled after Governor Malloy’s plan, which included a host of energy provisions, including requiring regulators to approve utility budgets for efficiency portfolios that include all cost-effective efficiency measures. With this clear order from the state’s leadership, all that was left was ticking boxes. In October, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection approved the statewide Conservation and Load Management Plan, with predicted savings of about 1.5% annually through 2015. And as we rang in the New Year, Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority approved the rate adjustments necessary to carry out these efficiency programs.
We’re also keeping a close eye on states that don’t yet have an EERS in place, and we expect to see our list continue to grow. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission proposed long-term targets for electricity savings in November. Stakeholders in New Jersey recently submitted a petition calling for an EERS for both electricity and natural gas. Arkansas and New York are on track to extend their EERS targets to a next phase.
We now have clear signs of progress from EERS policies in the form of big energy savings. In the 2013 State Scorecard, we found that every state that reported electricity savings of more than 1% had an EERS policy in place.
More than half of states now have strong forward-looking plans for saving energy through investments in efficiency. We are tracking progress toward meeting EERS targets in each of these 26 states in a report due out this spring (an update of a 2011 report you can find here).
If these 26 states continue to meet savings targets, we could see cumulative savings upwards of 5% of total U.S. Energy consumption.
If more states jump on board, the sky’s the limit.