Going Clean: How Energy Efficiency Is Helping States Zero Out Emissions

(ACEEE blog, 16 Jul 2019) A growing number of states are adopting ambitious clean energy goals, aiming to zero out emissions in the power sector and, in some cases, the statewide economy.

In the past year, legislatures in California, Colorado, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Puerto Rico, and Washington have all passed bills aimed at making their state’s electricity sector carbon free by 2045-2050. More states have pledged to meet similar goals through executive orders and regulatory frameworks, most recently New Jersey, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. To date, 25 governors have signed on to the US Climate Alliance, pledging to reduce emissions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Using Efficiency to Meet Clean Energy Targets

While these goals mean transitioning to clean and renewable energy generation, each of these states will also need a big ramp up in energy efficiency to reach its targets. Energy efficiency reduces loads, cutting the amount (and therefore cost) of renewable energy needed to meet the goals. Efficiency also reduces energy needs on very hot and cold days, helping to aid grid reliability at times when the grid is most stressed. It is clear that states and regions will need to lean heavily on energy efficiency on the road to zero emissions. Many already are.

New Mexico was the third state to pass legislation requiring 100% of the state’s electricity generation to come from renewables, following California and Hawaii. During its 2019 legislative session, New Mexico also passed legislation that will extend its energy efficiency targets and help incentivize utilities to save energy.

Puerto Rico’s 100% renewable energy goal was passed arm-in-arm with a requirement to significantly ramp up energy efficiency in the territory, achieving 30% electricity savings by 2040.

Some states have worked through utilities and regulatory agencies to develop strategies for meeting aggressive clean energy goals in the power sector. In Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz has pushed for a transition to 100% clean electricity while pointing out that utilities are a key partner in this transition. Although the state legislature failed to pass the bill that would make the governor’s goal law, Xcel Energy, which serves more than 1.2 million electric customers and nearly half a million natural gas customers in Minnesota (as well as customers in seven other states), has a goal to be zero-carbon by 2050. The company recently committed to closing the last two coal plants it operates in the state and achieving enough energy efficiency to avoid construction of a new power plant.

External link

ACEEE blog, 16 Jul 2019: Going Clean: How Energy Efficiency Is Helping States Zero Out Emissions