The results are in! The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has released its annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, and New York has edged out arch-rival Oregon for the #3 slot. We’re still substantially behind the two big dogs, but there was drama in the top bracket as well, as Massachusetts lapped California to become #1.
How we did it: Of course the first thing you’re wondering is how we managed to outdo Oregon and become #3. The most likely answer might be that we grabbed free agent David Bragdon, who directed much of the greening of Portland, and brought him here to head up Mayor Bloomberg’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. That, however, was a city-to-city maneuver, and the Scorecard, based on statewide performance, shows no indication that it was a factor. Rather, New York scored 1.5 points higher on “Utility and Public Benefit Fund Efficiency Programs and Policies” and Oregon beat us out by half a point on “Building Energy Code,” leaving us a net lead of 0.5 points. (We were tied in the other four categories.) This is way too close for comfort, and we’ll have to grow the advantage substantially to ensure continued dominance.
The Big Picture: To put all this in perspective, the Scorecard allocates a total of 50 possible points among six categories. Massachusetts won with a total of 45.5; California was second with 44.0, we were third at 38.0, and Oregon is now fourth with 37.5. Yes, we would have to span a substantial 6-point gap to compete in the top rank.
How Can New York Prevail? The areas in which we can most easily rack up additional points are the “Utility and Public Benefit Fund” area, where we got 15/20, and “Transportation,” now at 6/9. Looking at the detailed breakdown of the first category (p. 6 if you’re reading along), we got 4.5/5 for Electricity Program Budgets, but only 2.5/5 for actual Savings. So we spent the money, but we need meters on almost everything! And our Gas Program Budgets were deemed weak and only rated 1/3. This stems from all the years when the PSC and NYSERDA functioned off a System Benefit Charge that was initially structured around electric efficiency, and is only now being fully extended to include gas. We scored the maximum in the other two subcategories for “Utility and Public Benefit Fund,” so no room for improvement there.
On “Transportation,” I’m from New York City, where we probably rate a 9/9, so it really falls to those upstate SUV and pickup truck drivers to give us an assist. But 3 big points are just waiting to be picked up, if only we could extend rail and bus service.
For Building Energy Codes, we only scored 6/7, while four states got 7 and Georgia got 6.5 (?!?). What was our problem? Well, to get 7, your code had to exceed the 2009 IECC or ASHRAE 90.1-2007, and the authors deemed that we had only met those codes. Clearly, New York State should adopt the New York City energy code, which by definition exceeds the NYS code, and therefore meets the ACEEE requirements for a 7. Alternatively, we could plead that since almost half the population of NYS is now governed by the more stringent NYC code, on average the state deserves a 7. I’m sure a highly-paid lobbyist would be able to make this case clearly to the ACEEE staff over an expensive lunch.
California Strikes Back: Clearly outraged at being pushed off the high podium, the California Air Resources Board started the 2012 competition early by adopting a statewide cap and trade system for greenhouse gasses on October 20th. This was a shrewd move by California, since Massachusetts had already scored 7/7 on “State Government Initiatives” and can’t go any higher, while if California can push their 5.5 up to a 7, which this ambitious effort certainly deserves, they can tie Massachusetts on that basis alone.
Race from the Bottom: Three states – Mississippi, Wyoming, and (dead last) North Dakota – have total scores of less than 5/50. They should consider it a growth opportunity – Alabama went from 3 to 9/50, and Nebraska from 4 to 10/50, earning both of them commendations for “most improvement.” I’m not so sure they deserve praise at this level – some state will always be ranked 51st (DC is a state in the Scorecard), but even the lowest ranked state could have a score of 20 or 30/50 if they were trying at all. How about “still fails to meet expectations”?
Full Disclosure: OK, the Scorecard is a little dense, I haven’t read the whole thing, and you probably won’t either. But it is a lot of fun to dip and skim through, with great gobs of detail for the items that interest you most. I especially recommend Chapter 3 on Building Codes – a very clear explanation of different vintages of codes from the IEC and ASHRAE90.1, the role of the DOE and ARRA, and all that confusing stuff.