Western States Poised to Spring Forward on Energy Efficiency

19 April 2017


This spring, two western states are likely to decide on efforts that would yield dramatic energy savings, more jobs, and cleaner air. Legislators in Colorado and Nevada are weighing whether to improve and extend long-term energy efficiency targets.

Colorado’s energy efficiency targets have been in place since 2006 but are slated to expire in 2018. Last week the Colorado House passed a bill extending these savings goals for electric utilities through 2028.The Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy Committee will likely take up the bill later this week. Since states with energy efficiency targets in place are saving substantially more energy than states without them, codifying a ten-year efficiency strategy would have big impacts. Passage would mean regulatory certainty for Colorado’s investor-owned utilities and long-term bill savings for residents and businesses.

In Nevada, legislators have introduced a flurry of energy efficiency and clean energy legislation. Among these is a bill (SB 150) that would direct the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to establish energy savings goals for utilities. This bill is a step in the right direction because, under current law, energy efficiency allowances will phase out of Nevada’s renewable energy portfolio standard in 2025, leaving utilities with little incentive to continue running efficiency programs. The current bill leaves a lot of the decision making up to the commission, so the fate of Nevada’s energy efficiency programs won’t be entirely determined by the state legislature. However, the bill would likely have big implications for utility-delivered energy efficiency since it would ask the commission to consider non-energy benefits like health and safety when evaluating cost effectiveness. The bill also would require utilities to direct at least 5% of total efficiency expenditures to low-income customers.

What would be the likely impact in Nevada? A recent report looked at several scenarios that would increase renewable energy and efficiency in the state. It found that strong policies would boost Nevada’s economy, drawing up to $3.3 billion in capital investments. Three large pieces of clean energy legislation in Nevada offer such policies: SB 150 (described above), a similar piece of efficiency legislation moving through the Assembly (AB 223), and a bill increasing the state’s renewable energy standard (AB 206).

All this legislative activity could mean good things for businesses and residents in Colorado and Nevada--not only energy bill savings but also local job opportunities, cleaner air, and improved comfort in homes and offices. We’ll be tracking these efforts and updating our Energy Efficiency Resource Standard Policy Brief and State Policy Database to reflect the long-term goals of Nevada and Colorado. We hope to see effective state policy blossom into meaningful energy savings this spring.

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