​​Mass. again comes in 2d on energy efficiency efforts

Scorecard says state’s utility customers face big assessments

FOR THE SECOND year in a row, Massachusetts came in second behind California on a national scorecard of energy efficiency efforts.

Massachusetts earned 44.5 out of a possible 50 points, coming in 2.5 points behind California and 5 points ahead of third place New York. Maine was the most improved state on this year’s list, moving up 11 positions to take the fifth spot in the rankings with 35.5 points, just behind Vermont and two spots ahead of Rhode Island.

South Carolina and Ohio fared poorly in the latest scorecard, falling to the 49th and 44th places, respectively. Both states were docked points for allowing large utility customers to opt out of energy efficiency programs. Ohio’s energy efficiency efforts also suffered because the state’s utilities were not reimbursed for energy efficiency programs, according to the scorecard.

The 2021 scorecard, developed by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, attempts to gauge how states are doing in reducing energy consumption by comparing them in six categories – utility and/or public energy efficiency programs, transportation policies, building energy efficiency policies, state government initiatives, industrial policies, and appliance efficiency standards.

Massachusetts received the maximum score on state government initiatives and industrial policies. It lost 1.5 points each on transportation, building energy efficiency, and appliance efficiency standards and 1 point on its utility programs.

In the transportation sector, states were awarded a point for adopting either a statewide vehicle miles traveled target or specific transportation-specific greenhouse gas reduction target. Massachusetts, which has set a transportation-specific emissions target, was one of nine states to receive a point.

Massachusetts, however, did not receive a point or a half a point for actually reducing vehicle miles traveled over the last decade. Only New York and the District of Columbia received the full point.

“Reducing VMT growth is key to managing transportation energy use, and several states have taken on this challenge by setting VMT reduction targets,” according to the scorecard.

The scorecard for the first time did not take into account in its scoring methodology how much a state’s utilities are spending on electricity energy efficiency programs, focusing instead on incremental energy savings.

The scorecard did continue to track spending, however, and Massachusetts ranked third in terms of spending as a percent of total electricity revenues. 

Nationwide, $5.96 billion was spent on electricity energy efficiency programs in 2021. The median amount spent per state was  $64.2 million, or 1.8 percent of total electricity revenues.

Massachusetts spent $661.3 million, or 6.8 percent of statewide electricity revenues. Only California spent more — $745 million – but that total represented only 1.5 percent of its statewide electricity revenues.

New England states accounted for six of the seven top positions in electricity energy efficiency spending. Vermont was tops, spending a total of $64.6 million, or 7.3 percent of statewide electricity revenues. Rhode Island was second with $94.6 million, or 6.9 percent of total electricity revenues.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Massachusetts ranked first in natural gas efficiency program expenditures, spending a total of $330 million, or nearly $209 per customer.