LIKE THE FAMOUS Avis commercial says: when you’re number two, you gotta try harder! When it comes to energy efficiency policy, that is the unfamiliar position Massachusetts now finds itself in.
For years –– nine years to be precise –– the Commonwealth led or tied as the most energy efficient state in the nation, according to the leading metric from the non-profit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Their state energy efficiency scorecard now ranks California ahead of Massachusetts.
But Massachusetts has strong utility savings programs and vehicle emissions standards, robust electric vehicle incentives and energy-smart building codes, you say. Why did we lose our top slot? Two words: Appliance standards.
Massachusetts received strong marks in other areas, but received zero points for this key and often overlooked sector of energy policy. Appliance efficiency standards might not sound all that exciting, but they pack a punch. After all, using products that consume less energy and water can translate into big savings.
Reducing energy consumption isn’t just a clear win for our environment, it’s good for our pocketbooks, too. After all, the cheapest and greenest kind of energy is the energy you don’t use in the first place. Smart energy efficiency policies can also help create jobs and improve grid reliability.
But when it comes to appliance standards, Massachusetts received the same score as states ranking at the very bottom of the list, including West Virginia, North Dakota, and Alabama, according to the ACEEE scorecard.
We can do better! And that’s the good news.
There’s an easy way for Massachusetts to make progress on appliance standards and reclaim our top spot. It’s called the Mass. Energy SAVE Act. This bipartisan legislation has earned an unusual coalition of support, including leading utility companies, environmental and consumer advocates, and business groups.
They all understand that when smart energy policy aligns environmental benefits and economic incentives, we all win. Appliance standards ensure that the products we purchase use less energy and water while preserving quality and affordability. And since energy costs have a disproportionate impact on lower income consumers, efficiency standards can also have an even greater impact for those who most need assistance.
Many consumers are already familiar with programs like EnergyStar or WaterSense that promote efficiency performance and savings. The Energy SAVE Act effectively extends this same logic to a broader array of products including water faucets, showerheads, computers, monitors, and water coolers.
The non-profit Appliance Standards Awareness Project estimates that by 2025 state consumers and businesses could save more than $100 million per year if these new standards were in place, while at the same time reducing our carbon emissions by 113,000 metric tons.
The Energy SAVE Act has already earned strong bipartisan support in both the Massachusetts House and Senate. A conference committee drawn from the two branches is now working to reconcile a major climate bill and it’s vital that the Energy SAVE Act language remain in any final version of this bill when it comes for a vote.
Here in Massachusetts we can rightfully be proud of our leadership in energy efficiency programs. Our prior top ranking did not happen by accident. It was the result of a concerted and cooperative effort by the Legislature, administration, and advocates to support investments in efficiency programs and pass forward-thinking energy policies
Losing our top spot to California in the energy efficiency scorecard may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. It serves as a welcome wake-up call that we must always continue to innovate and advance in order to stay on top. Massachusetts has been a leader in the past and now it’s time to pass the Energy SAVE Act to update our standards to keep pace with changes in the marketplace.
Like Avis, when you are number two you have to try harder. Here’s to hoping that next year we can adopt the slogan of rival Hertz: We’re Number One!
Charlie Harak is a senior energy attorney for the National Consumer Law Center. Josh S. Cutler is state representative for the Sixth Plymouth District.