Council survey: California leads states in energy-saving rule adoption

More U.S. states have adopted or advanced new energy-saving targets and vehicle or electric appliance rules, but Covid-19 slowed other efficiency efforts, according to the 2020 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). For the first time in four years, California took first place nationwide, followed by Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New York, Maryland, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and Minnesota and Oregon (tied #9).

The scorecard found that states, many of which have set ambitious climate goals since 2018, had to abruptly shift their focus last year to mitigate the health and economic impacts of the deadly global pandemic. Across the country, energy efficiency workers lost jobs—with an estimated more than 300,000 still unemployed—pointing to the need for policymakers to help get them back to work. While some efficiency efforts stalled, others advanced before or during the pandemic. In top ranked California, for example, utility regulators in January approved $45 million in incentives for high-efficiency heat pump water heaters, a crucial technology for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“A number of states see that they have to act aggressively now to cut carbon emissions, but others just aren’t acting urgently. We need to see more states follow the leaders here, and quickly. Aggressive state policies combatting climate change are absolutely necessary no matter what gets done in Washington,” contends ACEEE Executive Director Steven Nadel. “In this pandemic and recession, policymakers can embrace efficiency efforts to help residents reduce their utility bills and get more people back to work, all while cutting pollution.”

The 2020 Scorecard examines policies and programs adopted through July 2020, factoring 32 metrics in five areas. For the first time, ACEEE researchers highlight top scorers regionally:

  • West and national leader California has long been a trendsetter for its adoption of net-zero energy building codes and stringent vehicle emissions standards. It has taken important steps to improve energy program access for low-income and disadvantaged communities and measure progress through energy equity indicators. The state has led the charge on vehicle electrification and strengthened lighting and appliance standards amid federal rollback efforts.
  • Northeast leader Massachusetts continues to excel on multiple fronts, including advanced efforts to integrate and align efficiency rules with electrification and building decarbonization strategies.
  • Midwest leader Minnesota reports strong results from utility run programs that help customers save energy and is developing draft rules for a Clean Cars program that would adopt California tailpipe and zero-emission vehicle standards.
  • Southwest/Mountain leader Colorado is working on plans to meet statewide climate goals, signed in 2019 and targeting a 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Governor Jared Polis released a roadmap last fall to meet those goals.
  • South/Southeast leader Virginia adopted its first-ever energy-saving target—known as an energy efficiency resource standard (EERS)—and raised minimum funding levels for efficiency programs for low income, elderly, or disabled individuals as well as veterans. It became the first
  • Southeastern state to set a 100 percent clean electricity goal.

Nevada was the most improved state in the scorecard, moving up five places in 2020 to #21. It has strengthened building energy codes, adopted standards for light bulbs, and moved to implement strong vehicle standards. In contrast, Iowa (#36) fell the farthest in the rankings, losing 13 places. Its slide occurred primarily as a result of 2018 legislation that capped certain efficiency investments, leading to a steep decline in progress in reducing electricity and gas use. The bottom five states, each earning seven or fewer points, are Kansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming.

In each region, the 2020 Scorecards identifies a “state to watch,” where promising developments are emerging. Along with Virginia, New Jersey (#17) is the most recent to adopt specific energy saving targets for utilities, and regulators there are seeking to ensure that low-income customers have equitable access to energy efficiency programs. Michigan (#13) regulators recently approved utilities’ plans to expand efficiency programs, North Carolina (#27) is advancing opportunities to strengthen such measures, and Arizona (#23) officials recently approved a path toward 100 percent carbon-free electricity, including an expansion of the state’s energy efficiency goals. Washington (#11) is working to implement 2019 laws requiring 100 percent clean energy by 2045 and a first-of-its-kind statewide standard for reducing energy use in existing commercial buildings.

An American Chemistry Council (ACC) study on 2019 economic metrics shows that the insulation industry, including the manufacture, distribution and installation of board, blanket and sprayed products, generated more than 564,000 jobs and $36 billion in payrolls. It demonstrates that such energy efficiency sector jobs provide a positive impact on the U.S. economy and will serve as a critical component of continued economic recovery.

Products represented include cellulose, expanded and extruded polystyrene, fiberglass, mineral wool, polyisocyanurate, and spray foam. Insulation end uses range from residential, commercial and industrial buildings to appliances, motor vehicles, equipment and mechanical systems.

“The benefits stemming from the insulation industry extend far beyond monetary contributions,” says ACC Center for the Polyurethanes Industry Director Stephen Wieroniey. “The use of insulation has valuable environmental benefits, as reduced energy consumption translates directly into lower emissions of greenhouse gases.” By lowering energy consumption, and thus energy bills, insulation helps make businesses more competitive and gives households more spending power, he adds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star program indicates the average household could save 15 percent on heating and cooling costs by adding insulation and sealing air leaks.

“The insulation industry is made up of businesses large and small, rooted in every community in America,” notes North American Insulation Manufacturers Association CEO Curt Rich. “Our workforce takes pride in the fact insulation is the most cost effective step we can take to address the climate change challenge.”

The industry provides significant contributions to the U.S. economy, study authors affirm. Insulation manufacturing is a $17.5 billion business and directly employs more than 39,000 people across 45 states. Indirectly, through its purchases of supplies, raw materials, equipment, and services, the business supports an additional 56,400 jobs in supply chain industries. —;

SOURCE: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy