Some states score high on energy efficiency efforts, some not so good

Massachusetts and California are the two most energy-efficient states, according to a report this week from a group that promotes new energy policies, technologies and investments.

In its annual scorecard, the nonprofit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy found that those two states topped all others as far as advocating energy-efficiency programs.

Others in the top 10 were: New York, Oregon, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington, Maryland and Minnesota. Each had been in the top 10 last year as well.

Bringing up the rear was Mississippi, though Gov. Phil Bryant hosted an energy summit this week where improving the state’s energy efficiency was a main topic.

Bryant “takes this ranking very seriously,” and improving the state’s energy efficiency will be one of the main topics of Thursday’s summit, spokesman Mick Bullock said in an email.

Besides Mississippi, the report said that the 10 states facing the most work to better their energy-efficiency efforts were: North Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, Alaska, Kansas, Missouri, Louisiana and Nebraska.

The report used six criteria to rank the states: utility and other public benefit programs, transportation policies, building energy codes, heat and power policies, state government initiatives, and appliance or equipment efficiency standards.

In addition, 24 states have adopted an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard, setting long-term energy savings targets and driving investments in utility-sector energy-efficiency programs.

Panelists at a press conference where the scorecard was released criticized the federal government for not effectively moving the country in an energy-efficient direction and praised states for taking measures into their own hands.

“In a time where Washington is having a lot of difficulty getting something done, between the Congress and the president and not exactly agreeing on things, states have really taken the lead,” said Steve Nadel, the group’s executive director. “This is happening in a bipartisan and a nonpartisan way. There are many Republican states, many Democratic states that are doing a lot.”

The rankings, however, indicate a political divide between the states at the top and bottom. Nine of the top 10 states all have Democratic or independent governors and Democrats in control of one or both houses of the state legislatures. Minnesota, tied for ninth, has a Democrat governor but a legislature controlled by Republicans.

Eight of the 10 lowest-ranked states have Republicans in control of both the governorships and legislatures.

Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, a Republican whose state moved up to 39th from 47th last year, said at the press conference that energy efficiency was part of an effort to improve fiscal efficiency.

“One of my top priorities has been to find ways to help government be more efficient, to be smarter and to try to save money for our taxpayers,” she said.

Oklahoma was one of seven states recognized for showing improvement. So were Arizona, Michigan, Montana, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and South Carolina.

According to its website, the council seeks to “advance energy-efficiency programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors.” It receives funding from a variety of sources including government, foundations and utility companies.

Lili Tan of the Medill News Service contributed to this story.