The Least Energy-Efficient States

NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Last week the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy put out its annual rankings of the most energy-efficient states. The rankings take into account the state-level programs and policies each state uses to encourage energy efficiency, including building energy codes and transportation policies. The winner this year was Massachusetts, which derailed efficiency powerhouse California with a combination of regulations and incentives to businesses.

But not every state has been successful in encouraging energy efficiency with its programs and policies. Here are the 10 states the ACEEE has declared most in need of improvement.
Many states have made huge strides in energy efficiencies such as solar panels, while others have made little or no effort on state-level programs and policies.

10th Least-Efficient State: South Dakota
We'll say this of South Dakota: The state spent decently on natural gas last year, budgeting a little more than $8 per residential customer for natural gas. And the ACEEE observes that a collaborative organization, the South Dakota Energy Smart Initiative, is bringing together utility companies to implement energy efficiency programs.

Still, the state has some catching up to do. As the organization notes, "Historically, South Dakota's utilities have not funded or offered much in the way of customer energy efficiency programs."

Ninth Least-Efficient State: Alabama
Let's hear it for Alabama: Despite being in the bottom 10 yet again, it was actually one of the six most-improved states, with increased investment in programs from 2009 to last year. Alabama utilities spent nearly $18 million on energy efficiency programs, up from just under $10 million last year. And the state government offers incentives to businesses that retrofit facilities with more efficient equipment.

Eighth Least-Efficient State: Missouri
Missouri is another state that's shedding its recent history and taking steps to escape the bottom 10.

"Dramatic changes are under way that should greatly increase the funding and availability of energy efficiency programs in Missouri," the ACEEE says. "There is a renewed emphasis on energy efficiency, driven by rising energy costs and related concerns."

Those changes have come in the form of legislation: The government passed the Missouri Energy Efficiency Investment Act in 2009, which requires investor-owned utilities to take every opportunity to increase efficiency.

Seventh Least-Efficient State: West Virginia
West Virginia laid some serious goose eggs last year when it came to efficiency. The state budgeted exactly zero dollars to natural gas programs - and sadly, was one of 11 states to do so. And it was also one of just two states to dedicate no money to electricity efficiency programs. The organization does say that the state has some pending customer energy efficiency programs.

Sixth Least-Efficient State: South Carolina
While many of South Carolina's utilities offer basic energy efficiency programs, the state does not have in place fundamental energy efficiency policies to drive cost-effective energy efficiency investments," the report says.

In other words, any energy efficiency programs that have been implemented by the state's utilities were put in place voluntarily. The state itself isn't doing much to encourage efficiency through its policies.

Fifth Least-Efficient State: Oklahoma
Oklahoma is one of the states that doesn't budget a single dollar toward natural gas programs. It did, however, put $27.9 million toward electricity efficiency programs.

And there are signs of progress in the Sooner State. The big investor-owned utility company, Public Service Company of Oklahoma, has begun to implement some energy efficiency programs, which the ACEEE calls "modest efforts."

Fourth Least-Efficient State: Kansas
What's the matter with Kansas? No government-mandated efficiency programs, it would seem.

"Kansas does not have any laws or regulatory rules that mandate energy efficiency programs," says the report, while noting that the state has promised to work with utilities as they develop their own efficiency programs. The result, so far, is unimpressive: The state saved just 917 megawatt hours of electricity last year. Vermont, by contrast, managed to save more than 90,000 MWH, even with its smaller population.

Third Least-Efficient State: Mississippi
There's not much to say about Mississippi, because there's not much there as far as energy efficiency. The state spent nothing on natural gas programs and just $12.5 million in electricity efficiency programs last year.

"Utilities in Mississippi offer few energy efficiency programs," the report observes bluntly. And utilities are not required or incentivized to offer such programs by the state.

Second Least-Efficient State: Wyoming
Despite its miserable ranking here, Wyoming at least seems to be going slowly in the right direction. As recently as 2007, the state didn't spend a red cent on energy efficiency programs, but in 2009 the Wyoming Public Service Commission approved some energy-saving programs by the utility company Rocky Mountain Power. Last year the state's utility companies managed to budget $4.3 million toward energy efficiency programs and a little under $500,000 for natural gas programs.

The Least Energy-Efficient State: North Dakota
We started this list with one Dakota, and we'll finish it with the other one. The only energy efficiency programs in North Dakota are still in the discussion stage. As the ACEEE reports, "In January 2009, the Public Service Commission held a workshop to explore policies and methodologies for evaluating utility energy efficiency and load management programs."

We'll see if that goes anywhere. For now, North Dakota is dead last when it comes to encouraging energy efficiency.

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