What State Saves the Most Energy - Accent Energy, New York
A report released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) ranks California as our nation's most energy efficient state. ACEEE periodically examines energy efficiency policies throughout the country and releases their report as a way to put a spotlight on leaders in the field and the practices they use.
ACEEE ranked states on a wide range of energy efficiency programs. Their criteria included: energy efficiency programs and policies, transportation and land use policies, building energy codes, appliance efficiency standards, and financial incentives for efficient technologies. Out of fifty possible points, California received 40.5. The second ranked state was Oregon with 37 points. Coming in last with a grand total of zero points was Wyoming (The 2008 Energy Efficiency Scorecard).
So what does California do differently from Wyoming that makes them so energy efficient? There are some factors that are inherent to its location and make efficiency an easier task. Much of California is in a sunny, mild climate. It stands to reason that residents of a state like that would use less energy than those in a cold, rainy state where light and heat are more important to survival. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Since the 1970s California has worked hard to control the amount of energy used there.
One important factor in California's reduction of energy use is the cost of electricity. It is one of the highest in the nation, at 13 cents per kilowatt-hour. Cost is quite obviously a reason why many Californians cut back the amount of energy they use. This becomes even more of a certainty when you take a look at the cost of electricity in the states that are the least energy efficient. Wyoming, Kentucky, and Alabama-ranked 51, 31, and 49 respectively (The 2008 Energy Efficiency Scorecard)-have the lowest electricity prices in the country, ranging from 5.25 to 7.06 cents per kilowatt-hour. To bring the point home even more, according to The Washington Post, the average American uses 12,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. Californians use less than 7,000.
Prices are not the only reason California is so energy efficient. According to ACEEE, California's building energy codes are the best-enforced codes in the U.S. Its code, says The 2008 Energy Efficiency Scorecard, "is stringent, has high compliance in field verification studies, offers flexibility through performance-based specifications and is actively supported through technical assistance." According to the California Energy Commission's website, "California's building efficiency standards (along with those for energy efficient appliances) have saved more than $56 billion in electricity and natural gas costs since 1978." This is an incredible accomplishment and the Commission only expects efficiency to improve. "It is estimated," they write, "the standards will save an additional $23 billion by 2013".
Another big way California maintains its energy efficiency, is through the decoupling policy that has been in place since 1982. This policy disassociated the link between a utility company's profits and the amount of electricity their customers use. With this policy, the more energy efficient a company is, the higher their revenue can go. So far California is the only state with a policy like this in effect.
California also led the way in greenhouse gas emissions policy. In 2002 they passed the Pavely Bill, which mandated the California Motor Vehicle Program to regulate green house gas emissions. Most of the reductions in these emissions are made through enhanced vehicle efficiency (The 2008 Energy Efficiency Scorecard).
California was also the first state to implement efficiency standards for appliances (The 2008 Energy Efficiency Scorecard). The state adopted rigid appliance standards even before the federal government did. According to Arthur H. Rosenfeld, a member of the California Energy Commission, the change in standards for California's refrigerators alone has saved energy that is equivalent to all of the hydroelectric power produced throughout the country.
With all of the strong steps California has taken throughout the years, it should come as no surprise that they lead the nation in energy efficiency. It has become an ingrained part of California culture, a given rather than something that "should" be done. If more of the country followed in their footsteps, a monumental amount of energy-and money-could be saved in the long run.