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Report: Connecticut a leader on energy efficiency

October 5, 2018

Whether tailpipe emissions requirements, state building codes, appliance standards or financial incentives for consumers, Connecticut remains one of the nation’s top performers in energy efficiency, a report from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy shows.

A Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit advocating for energy efficiency, security and environmental protection, ACEEE released its 12th annual scorecard on Thursday, with Connecticut ranked fifth in the nation, one spot higher than 2017. The scorecard assesses state policies and programs, utilities, buildings, transportation, state government, combined heat and power, and appliance standards.

ACEEE ranked Connecticut above national averages in every category, noting the state “leads by example with policies that benchmark energy usage in state buildings,” requires efficient public vehicle fleets and offers “several financial incentives ... including loans, grants, and sales tax exemptions for energy-efficient products.”

The Connecticut Green Bank, launched in 2011 to help fund residential and commercial efficiency projects, serves as a model for other states, securing 145 million in energy efficiency funds to fill budget gaps greatly weakened 2018 programs, ACEEE said.

Renewable energy and environmental advocates, and many businesses that provide efficiency services such as home energy audits and solar and insulation installations, say the funding sweep killed jobs and will hurt the power grid and environment over the long haul. The state faces an ongoing federal civil suit over the sweep, with several groups claiming the move was an unconstitutional shift of ratepayer funds meant for energy efficiency programs.

Massachusetts and California were the top two performers in ACEEE’s report, while North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming were in the bottom tier.

Several states boosted efforts to promote zero-emission vehicles, mostly electric, even “as the federal government sought to freeze fuel economy standards for cars and SUVs,” the report said.

“States are stepping up on energy efficiency, including major new commitments in New Jersey, New York, and Virginia, helping to address the very limited activity from Washington, DC,” ACEEE Executive Director Steve Nadel said in a statement. “These efforts contributed to the 2.25 million-plus efficiency jobs last year in the United States.”

ACEEE said utilities spent more than $7.9 billion for efficiency programs nationwide in 2017, helping save more than 25 million megawatt hours of electricity.

In a news release Thursday, Eversource Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Penni Conner described Connecticut as a “national leader in energy efficiency because our customers recognize the proven economic, environmental and cost-saving benefits it delivers.”

Eversource manages several energy-efficiency programs and services such as energy-saving solutions, training, rebates and incentives for upgrades for homeowners, renters, businesses, nonprofits, schools and municipalities.

Ed Crowder, spokesman for United Illuminating, Southern Connecticut Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas — subsidiaries of Orange-based Avangrid Inc. — said the Energize Connecticut initiative funded through a line item on gas and electric bills enables the utilities to make a wide range of cost-cutting efficiency solutions available to customers, including efficient home construction rebates and energy audits.

“We’re delighted that Connecticut’s award-winning energy efficiency programs are being recognized for their effectiveness in helping the state’s residents and businesses save energy and money,” Crowder said.

b.kail@theday.com

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