Even though political gridlock in Washington, D.C., has thwarted efforts to impose market-based curbs on climate change, the states, by and large, have managed to advance energy efficiency policies in ways that both address ecological issues and stimulate economic activity, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, which this week released the fourth edition of its State Energy Efficiency Scorecard.
The most notable advances indicated by the Scorecard results, the ACEEE says, include a near doubling of state energy efficiency budgets from 2007 level, and the adoption or serious consideration by more than half the states of Energy Efficiency Resource Standards, which require commitments to long-term, fixed energy-savings targets. Another highlight: a doubling in one year of the number of states that have adopted or progressed toward adoption of the latest energy-saving building codes for residential and commercial construction.
As for the ranking itself, past winner California remains in first place for its relatively large investments in energy efficiency, although the remaining states near the top of the ranking are all veterans of the previous edition’s top 10. The rankings in descending order (with the previous ranking in parentheses): Massachusetts (holding steady at No. 2), Oregon (previously No. 4); New York (previously No. 5); Vermont (previously No. 6); Washington (up from No. 7); Rhode Island (up from No. 9); Connecticut (tied for No. 8, but down from No. 3); Minnesota (tied for No. 8, holding steady); and Maine (holding steady at No. 10).
The four most improved states: Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and Alaska, which moved up 11, 11, 8, and 8 spots, respectively. The 10 states in most need of improvement (in descending order): Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Alabama, Mississippi, and North Dakota.
The ACEEE report and Scorecard is based on examinations of energy efficiency policy in six areas: utility and public benefits programs and policies; transportation policies; building energy codes; combined heat and power; state government initiatives; and appliance efficiency standards. A state can earn a maximum of 50 points overall.
Advocating a major clean energy plan
The release of the ACEEE Scorecard results was timely, because it not only helps focus attention on the evolution of state policy but nicely frames a position paper on energy policy co-presented Wednesday by the conservative American Enterprise Institute and two liberal-leaning think tanks, the Brookings Institution and the Breakthrough Institute. Titled “Post-Partisan Power,” the paper is designed to sidestep the partisan bickering that has stalled market-driven cap-and-trade legislation by suggesting that the federal government invest $25 billion a year in military procurement, research and development, and academic/private-sector alliances devoted to boosting innovation in alternative sources of energy.
The exact funding mechanism for the initiative – a modest cap-and-trade program and increasing royalties from oil and gas production are among the possibilities – obviously would have to be hammered out. But the proposal is especially compelling, the report notes, because the government has a history of successful research programs, such as those for “developing computers to allow for rocket systems, building a communications network to survive a nuclear attack, or creating increasingly efficient and powerful jet engines.” Research into clean energy fits the profile.
The report adds that reducing the cost of clean-energy technologies – rather than reorganizing the entire energy economy of the U.S., and/or subsidizing existing energy sources in the hope they could be scaled up to new efficiencies – would be the most direct and, very likely, the quickest way to bring the technologies into general use, and expedite a transition from conventional sources such as oil and gas.