US states continue to ramp up energy efficiency investments

Certain US states are continuing to push forward energy efficiency measures and improve the carbon intensity of their building and transport sectors – despite federal rollbacks on clean vehicle and other major energy-saving standards, according to a new report from the American Council for Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

In its 2018 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, ACEEE identifies the leading and most improved energy efficient states in the US, along with those lagging behind in energy efficiency – what ACEEE describes as the nation’s third-largest energy resource.

Overall, the scorecard paints a largely positive picture of the US’ energy saving efforts – despite the Trump administration’s efforts to freeze the nation’s vehicle and appliance standards. Both moves have seen several states take the lead to implement or improve their own standards to promote electric vehicles and zero-energy buildings.

Topping ACEEE’s list of energy efficient states is Massachusetts, thanks to a state plan to set new three-year energy savings targets and approve utility spending for grid modernisation, followed by California (#2), whose energy-saving efforts have focused largely on the buildings, transportation and appliances sectors.Rhode Island, Vermont  and Connecticut come in third, fourth and fifth place respectively.

The most improved state was New Jersey – which moved up five ranks to #18 – thanks to robust new annual energy savings targets, and its recent moves to rejoin the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Other states making good progress include Virginia, South Dakota, Colorado, Connecticut and Missouri, which this year introduced plans to extend the rollout of electric vehicles (EVs) across the state, while Oregon now requires new buildings to have EV charging facilities.

The number of states with mandatory energy savings targets increased to 27 this year, following the signing of the
bill SB2314 in New Jersey in March. 

Faring less well is Iowa – which fell five places to #24 – due to the
SF2311 bill signed earlier this year, which imposes a restrictive cap on efficiency programmes and removes programme requirements placed on local utilities and co-operatives. This also led 17 other states to drop in the rankings.

Despite these setbacks, the US made major strides in its zero-emission vehicle and construction efforts last year. Zero-emissions vehicles (ZEVs) – mainly electric – received a major boost amid federal government efforts to freeze fuel economy standards on cars and SUVs. California and nine other states rolled out an updated ZEV plan, which incentivises customers to buy ZEVs.

Several states – including Vermont, Rhode Island, Oregon, Washington, the District of Colombia and Massachusetts – have pushed for zero-energy construction through stringent building codes. The same states have also adopted incorporated net zero-energy construction into long-term plans. Meanwhile, California calls for all new homes and commercial buildings to be net zero-energy by 2020 and 2030, respectively.

Overall, US states have increased their energy efficiency investments in the utility sector – spending $8bn last year, up from $7.6bn in 2016 – and saving 27 MWh, according to ACEEE.

The ACEEE Scorecard comes amidst
reports that the Trump administration has shelved plans to offer payments to large coal and nuclear generators in the US to reward their ‘resilience’.


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