Key ACEEE Initiatives of Interest to States and Cities

Steven Nadel, Executive Director, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy

Given the inability of Congress to agree on almost anything, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has increasingly focused on state and local policy in recent years. Some of our key current projects are described below.

State Policy

EPA regulations for existing power plants: ACEEE is analyzing the EPA’s proposed rule for emissions from existing power plants from both federal and state perspectives, and will be providing comments to the EPA on how to make the energy efficiency path to compliance effective. We will also be providing information to states on energy efficiency opportunities they can include in their plans. Both ACEEE and the EPA see energy efficiency programs as the largest opportunity, and lowest-cost strategy, for meeting these requirements. State-by-state opportunities are documented in our April 2014 report, Change Is in the Air: How States Can Harness Energy Efficiency to Strengthen the Economy and Reduce Pollution. This report includes economic analysis on the impact of the recommended energy efficiency policies on gross state product and jobs. This report, and all other ACEEE reports and papers, are available to download for free at http://aceee.org/publications.

State energy efficiency scorecard: ACEEE will be publishing our eighth annual state scorecard in October. Will Massachusetts retain the top spot, or will a rising star snatch the crown? Which states will be the most improved? A draft of the report will be circulated to states for review and comment this summer.

Utility of the future: In June we released a report, The Future of the Utility Industry and the Role of Energy Efficiency, which finds that a utility “death spiral” is unlikely, but that utilities and regulators will need to consider new business models, such as investments in distributed generation and expansion of energy efficiency programs and services.

Energy efficiency programs and policies: ACEEE publishes more than 30 research reports annually on energy efficiency topics. Other recent reports have addressed the cost of utility-sector energy efficiency programs (average of about 3 cents per kWh saved), state experience with energy efficiency resource standards (most states are on track to meeting their goals), and recent experience with whole-building retrofits in the commercial sector and deep retrofits in the residential sector.

Studies due out later this year will address experience with utility shareholder incentives and lost-revenue adjustment mechanisms, programs achieving the highest participation rates, best practice programs for saving both electricity and natural gas, pathways to zero net energy building codes by 2030, and using games to motivate behavioral change. A report on best practices for documenting the job impacts of energy efficiency programs will be published in 2015.

Local Policy

ACEEE has recently expanded our work on local policy, assisting cities and towns to expand their energy efficiency efforts, which build on local energy and sustainability plans and programs begun under ARRA.
Local policy database and city scorecard: Earlier this year we expanded our online state policy database to include local policies in nearly 50 cities (see http://database.aceee.org). We have begun work on the second edition of our City Energy Efficiency Scorecard, to be published in the spring of 2015. In the meantime, we are directly assisting a number of cities to develop improved energy efficiency programs and policies, and are developing a series of fact sheets on ways utilities and local governments can work together to save energy. We also recently completed a report on the strategies cities are using to reduce the impacts of the urban heat island effect on their communities.

Multifamily housing: A priority area of focus for us is improving the efficiency of multifamily housing. Our Multifamily Energy Savings Project includes work with utilities and other program operators in more than 20 states on expanded and improved programs, work with lenders in our Small Lender Energy Efficiency Community on energy efficiency loans for multifamily housing, research on the nonenergy benefits of energy efficiency retrofits to multifamily housing, and a pilot project with the state of Maryland and the city of Takoma Park to use modern social science methods to encourage tenants to reduce their energy use. Further information on some of these efforts can be found at www.aceee.org/multifamily-project.

Energy efficiency and local economic development: Energy efficiency is a potentially powerful tool for driving broad-based economic growth. Upcoming research projects are examining how local governments can use energy efficiency to spur local development, including a toolkit for distressed communities on how best to incorporate efficiency investments in their recovery efforts.

Conclusion

Most energy efficiency programs and policies are offered at the state and local levels, not at the national level. ACEEE has a very active research and technical assistance effort in place to help states and cities become energy efficiency leaders while adapting to local conditions. State and local efforts are even more important, given the gridlock in Congress, although administrative actions in Washington can aid and encourage states and cities. States will need to step up their energy efficiency efforts as they develop compliance plans for the EPA regulations on pollution from existing power plants. States and localities are uniquely positioned to implement policies and programs that are suited to local needs and opportunities, allowing them to maximize the benefits they receive from energy efficiency.