We do not live in a simple world. The US economy, especially, often gets to where it wants to go only by way of rules of the road so complicated that few businesses can operate without attorneys as chauffeurs.

So it’s refreshing when a common sense idea, one that requires no new laws, regulations or codes, appears to have huge influence. Such is the case with the annual state energy efficiency scorecard, created by the Washington, D.C.-based research organization, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Now in its eighth year, the ACEEE state scorecard ranks states based on their energy efficiency policies, best to worst, and then publicizes the results. The organization released the most recent scorecard last week.

The ACEEE state scorecard plays to the idea that all of us want to be recognized, especially if our jobs come by way of a popular vote. Not surprisingly, elected officials embrace the competition with growing intent.

“More and more governors and state lawmakers understand that they have a choice: Do nothing as costly energy is wasted or take action by creating incentives to waste less energy,” said Maggie Molina, director of ACEEE’s Utilities, State, and Local Policy program.

Massachusetts makes no secret of the fact that it keeps coming out on top. For the last four years Massachusetts has been number one. The state unabashedly weaves this success into energy news releases, speeches and interviews.  And you can argue that it deserves to trumpet its success – it doesn’t come easily with California just behind, threatening any year to steal the crown.

Massachusetts again ranks as the top state of energy efficiency with California second.

The ACEEE state scorecard also provides a clear look at the laggard states and exposes those that are slipping.  Indiana slid down 13 spots in the ranking this year, partly because lawmakers eliminated long-term energy savings goals. Ohio dropped seven spots after freezing and weakening its energy efficiency resource standard.

Overall, though, this year’s scorecard portrays good news for energy efficiency. States saved 24.4 million MWh last year, up 7 percent from 2011. Natural gas savings reached 276 million therms, a 19 percent increase over the 2011 savings reported in the previous ACEEE state scorecard.

Annie Gilleo, ACEEE State Policy Research Analyst, describes the scorecard as “a toolkit that policymakers can use to increase energy savings in their state.” True, and more, it’s a motivator, one that’s all carrot, not stick. Line us up, point to a finish line, blow the whistle and we follow our natural inclination, we run.

The behavioral premise may be simple, but ACEEE’s scoring is not. The organization undertakes an extensive review of publicly available data and then verifies it with state energy offices and public utility commissions.  States are scored based on 30 metrics in six policy areas – utility policies and programs, transportation initiatives, building energy codes, combined heat and power development, state government-led initiatives, and state-level appliance standards.

Here are some of highlights from this year’s ACEEE state scorecard.

  • Massachusetts ranked number one for the 4th year with 42 points out of 50. California was second with 40.5 points. Although Massachusetts won overall, California did better in certain categories, specifically transportation, building energy codes, state government initiatives, and appliance efficiency standards. Massachusetts, however, did far better in the heavily weighted utility programs category, and also bested California when it comes to combined heat and power.
  • The Northeast dominated the top slots with Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut and New York in the top five
  • There was a three-way split for the number 3 slot between Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont
  • Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Kentucky, and Wisconsin won most improved states
  • The bottom states from last and up were North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota, Mississippi, and Alaska.

The full ACEEE state scorecard is available for free download. ACEEE also issues scorecards for cities and countries every other year.

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About Author

Elisa Wood is an editor at EnergyEfficiencyMarkets.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

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