Mert Dilek

Connecticut is the sixth most energy-efficient state in the nation, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy’s 2015 ranking.

Released last week, the ACEEE’s annual State Energy-Efficiency scorecard evaluated and ranked all 50 states and the District of Columbia on their commitment to pursuing energy-efficient programs and policies. The team of seven ACEEE analysts assessed states according to their performance in six categories: utility and public benefits programs and policies, transportation policies, building energy codes and compliance, combined heat and power policies, state government-led initiatives and appliance efficiency standards. Connecticut ranked in the top 10 for each category. Massachusetts, California and Vermont topped the list. Connecticut trailed just one point behind Rhode Island and Oregon, which tied for fourth place.

According to Seth Nowak, a senior analyst at ACEEE and a co-author of the survey, an all cost-effective energy efficiency mandate played a large role in securing Connecticut’s high ranking. The mandate requires the state to prioritize energy efficiency when meeting resource needs, and allows Connecticut to save significantly more money in electric utilities than states with more traditional policies. As of April 2014, seven states had adopted similar mandates. Six of the seven states that operate under these mandates ranked in the top 10 of the ACEEE scorecard.

“It makes a huge difference. A policy that maximizes all cost-effective energy efficiency really drives the utility and government regulators and companies to implement the program,” Nowak said. “They know that it’s going to be the top priority, so it really cuts across lots of complexities.”

The all cost-effective energy efficiency mandate is one of several programs and policies that the state adopted in 2013 as part of Connecticut’s first-ever comprehensive energy strategy, according to Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Director of Communications Dennis Schain.

Connecticut’s Green Bank sets it apart from many states and contributed to its high ranking, according to the ACEEE scorecard. The Green Bank is an initiative that replaced the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund in 2011 as part of Gov. Dan Malloy’s commitment to addressing energy issues. Professor of environmental law and policy Daniel Esty said he believes that Connecticut’s energy efficiency ranking would be even higher if the ACEEE scorecard calculations fully took into account Connecticut Green Bank activity.

“The metrics they use don’t fully account for the way the Connecticut Green Bank creatively uses limited public money to leverage private capital for scaled-up clean energy projects,” Esty said. “It’s still a very good result, and if metrics fully tracked the work that Connecticut is doing, [the state] would be in one of the top couple of positions.”

Although Connecticut achieved a high ranking this year, DEEP still seeks to improve the state’s energy efficiency, Schain said. In the next year, the organization plans to focus on making the benefits of energy efficiency available to residents across the economic spectrum, he said. Schain said DEEP aims to involve more private investments, rather than tax dollars, in energy efficiency projects. That way, organizations that require state money to improve their energy performance can do so without concerns about insufficient funds, he added.

Connecticut has ranked in the top six on the ACEEE scorecard for the past four years.