Analysis: Lacking energy efficiency efforts undercut state climate goals

While 17 states and territories have adopted clean electricity standards in an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions, inadequate energy efficiency standards could lead to higher costs and produce less-equitable outcomes, according to a new report.

Analysis by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) found that only Virginia and Washington State have incorporated specific efficiency targets within clean electricity standard legislation. Meanwhile, of the 25 states and the District of Columbia with expressed emissions reduction goals, eight don’t mention energy efficiency.

Only New York State and the District of Columbia have emissions targets that encompass specific energy consumption reduction goals.

“Transitioning away from electricity sources that produce greenhouse gases is a big undertaking, and reducing energy waste is one of the most important tools. If your state doesn’t have a pretty clear plan for how to improve efficiency, it’s on an uncertain and potentially costly path toward decarbonization,” said Weston Berg, senior researcher for state policy at ACEEE and lead author of the report. “It doesn’t make sense for any state to go after a big transformation of its energy system with one hand tied behind its back. We don’t want to look back in a decade or two and see that these states left some of the best tools on the table.”

The analysts suggest that states reduce costs of meeting clean electricity standards by managing demand on the grid, aid electrification efforts, and strengthen and advance equitable decarbonization strategies.

Improving energy efficiency represents one of the greatest opportunities to cut emissions and slow the impacts of climate change, according to the United Nations. Commercial buildings are a leading producer of global CO2 emissions, accounting for 39%.

Congress is considering billions of dollars to support energy efficiency with the bipartisan infrastructure and budget reconciliation packages. Concerns about the price tags of the proposals by moderate Democrats in the Senate, however, could lead the $3.5 trillion budget bill to be cut in half.

Congress is also considering a Clean Electricity Performance Program (with similar goals of a CES) as part of the budget reconciliation.

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