The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently published the 2015 “State Energy Efficiency Scorecard,” which ranks all 50 U.S. states by their efforts and results in establishing a more energy-efficient economy and infrastructure.
Factors considered for the scorecard include utilities, transportation, building energy codes, heat and power, as well as state government-led initiatives in addition to utility-sponsored programs.
“Energy savings continue to rise, with states in the Northeast proving that electricity savings of 2% – even upwards of 3% – are possible,” says the report, which lists Massachusetts at the top with 44 out of a possible 50 points, closely followed by California (43.5), Vermont (39.5), Rhode Island (36.5), and New York (32.5).
ACEEE also reports that the past year has been “a time of transition and experimentation” for states like New York and Minnesota, which are attempting to overhaul their utility business models.
New York, in fact, has been a leader in energy efficiency for decades and its latest efforts across the state serve as a great example and case study for future programs. Let’s take a look.
New York State Energy Initiative
Earlier this year, New York launched a new initiative called “Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV), which aims to “lead to regulatory changes that promote more efficient use of energy” and “deeper penetration of renewable energy resources.”
“Under Governor Cuomo’s REV strategy, New York is actively spurring clean energy innovation, bringing new investments into the State and improving consumer choice and affordability,” the state department announced, adding that it “is aligning markets and the regulatory landscape with the overarching state policy objectives of giving all customers new opportunities for energy savings, local power generation, and enhanced reliability to provide safe, clean, and affordable electric service.”
As a result, utility companies across the state launched several programs to prepare for New York’s new regulations and meet energy efficiency goals.
Programs that Show Promise
New York State’s second largest investor-owned utility, National Grid, proposed a plan that aims to achieve electric efficiency savings of roughly 0.9% of their distribution sales in their first year and 1.2% three years into the program. In comparison, National Grid was able to reach over 2% in savings per year with a similar plan in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
As part of the program, the utility company proposed to invest into constructing new, energy-efficient buildings, which is much cheaper than retrofitting inefficient or older buildings.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), as a consequence of the REV initiative, is now focusing on improving the functioning of markets for clean energy. The extensive series of programs introduced by the authority addressses the following key issues (amongst others):
- Energy efficiency of tenant spaces in commercial buildings,
- strategic energy management in industrial facilities,
- zero net energy and deep retrofits in both the residential and commercial sectors,
- and efforts to help prospective residential tenants and home buyers to assess the energy efficiency of a home or apartment before they sign a lease or contract.
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Programs With Little Promise
While National Grid and NYSERDA have been able to move the state of New York toward a more energy-efficient economy, other players are still lagging behind in their efforts.
Large utility companies like Consolidated Edison (Con Ed) and New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG), for example, rolled out plans that aim for energy efficiency savings of only 0.4% of distribution sales in all of the next three years respectively.
The total amount of initiatives under their programs is also much smaller than that of National Grid. They are addressing issues like commercial and industrial rebates, multifamily programs, and small commercial direct installations, but are not including plans for a comprehensive new construction program.
Central Hudson Electric & Gas, Rochester Gas & Electric, and Orange & Rockland are also falling short with their energy savings goals ranging from 0.5% to 0.8% of distribution sales between 2016 and 2018.
Earlier this year, New York’s Public Service Commission (PSC) announced that it set 2016 energy saving goals for utilities at the same level as those of 2015, adding that “longer-term goals should exceed existing targets.”
ACEEE, however, recommends that “if the PSC wants the other utilities to increase their energy efficiency savings, they will need to be more explicit in setting new targets and not just letting the utilities base their energy savings targets on past achievements.”
As part of the next phase in the REV roll-out, the PSC plans to move toward performance-based ratemaking, which will measure and reward utility companies based on a pre-determined set of performance metrics. This will hopefully bring with it the change ACEE is hoping to see.