SWEEP policy wins in 2022 and big plans for 2023

February 1, 2023 | SWEEP Staff

With 2022 behind us and the new year underway, it’s time to check in with the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project’s (SWEEP) energy efficiency experts to hear about the policy wins they’re most proud of from last year, as well as their predictions and hopes for 2023. We’re excited to add these new achievements to the strong foundation of accomplishments that SWEEP has built over our past 22 years.

Elise Jones, Executive Director

2022: Despite the ongoing challenges of the COVID pandemic and surging inflation, SWEEP had a banner year of growth and accomplishment in 2022, with the addition of a Communications Fellow and two new staff hired to help Southwest states and local governments harness the unprecedented funding in the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to leverage clean, efficient, and equitable energy improvements. Additionally, the enthusiastic generosity of board members and supporters made the organization’s first-ever participation in Giving Tuesday a resounding success, resulting in nearly $40,000 in donations to propel SWEEP’s important work forward in the coming year.
2023: SWEEP’s goal in 2023 is to go bigger, farther, and faster – and more efficiently, of course! – in implementing our new strategic plan. A top plan priority is maximizing the equity and climate benefits of the new federal dollars by using them to replicate and amplify the best innovations in efficiency, electrification, and decarbonization around the Southwest region.

Christine Brinker, Senior Buildings Policy Manager
2022: SWEEP led many applause-worthy accomplishments for state and local buildings efficiency and buildings electrification policy in 2022. To lower energy bills and help make existing buildings more efficient, comfortable and climate-friendly, the State of Colorado kicked off implementation of the statewide benchmarking bill, passed with SWEEP’s leadership in the legislature last year. Beyond just measuring and monitoring energy use at existing buildings, SWEEP helped design the policy to include upcoming Building Performance Standards, set to reduce climate emissions 7% by 2026 and 20% by 2030, through a combination of efficiency and electrification. Electrification will be made easier in Colorado through our work to help pass legislation providing a 10% tax credit for heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and associated electrical equipment. Codes for new buildings also leapt forward in the state in 2022, with passage of SWEEP’s priority legislation setting the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as the minimum for local government adoption, including electric-ready, electric vehicle (EV) ready, and solar-ready – and an even stronger low energy and carbon code that starts in 2026. 
2023: Local communities are moving aggressively towards net zero emission energy codes, including approval of electric-preferred and, in some cases, all-electric codes combined with stronger energy efficiency. (We love helping communities with code adoption!) SWEEP will wrap up our multi-year effort to help several cohorts of neighboring communities work collaboratively to adopt stronger energy codes. We’re also nerdily excited about appliance efficiency standards and clean lighting legislation in New Mexico and Colorado, and clean lighting legislation in Nevada.

Matt Frommer, Senior Transportation Associate
2022: In 2022, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) adopted a nation-leading policy to establish greenhouse gas reduction targets for transportation plans and better align our infrastructure investments with projects that cut pollution, improve efficiency, advance equity, and save people money on transportation. CDOT’s new climate rule shifted billions of dollars away from costly and polluting highway expansion projects and redirected funding toward multimodal transportation projects that support transit, biking, walking, and more efficient land use. In particular, the Denver metro region canceled a $1.5 billion highway project that would have replaced homes and businesses with more car traffic and pollution, and is now using the funds to advance the construction of four new Bus-Rapid-Transit corridors by 2030. 
2023: SWEEP is co-leading the Colorado Sustainable Housing Coalition to develop legislation for 2023 with the goal of increasing housing affordability and promoting climate-friendly land use patterns that reduce vehicle travel, improve access to opportunity, and conserve land and water. Smart land use is an incredibly powerful yet underutilized tool to decrease transportation emissions, and we look forward to working with a diverse set of stakeholders to advance policy solutions that promote both sustainability and equity. 

Tammy Fiebelkorn, New Mexico Representative
2022: SWEEP led the way to energy equity in New Mexico in 2022 with the passage of landmark legislation, the Community Energy Efficiency Development (CEED) Block Grant Act. This legislation created a non-reverting fund at the New Mexico Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources that will fund local energy efficiency and electrification for low-income communities with high energy burdens. Local governments and Tribal entities can apply for these funds by partnering with a local community agency or nonprofit. $10 million was allocated to this fund to begin the CEED work.
2023: SWEEP’s priority legislation for New Mexico this year is another energy equity bill focused on Low-Income Utility Rates. In conjunction with CEED, low-income rates will minimize the energy burden on disadvantaged community members throughout the state by reducing the use and cost of energy. Current case law prohibits low-income utility rates in New Mexico, so this legislation will explicitly allow low-income rates and set forth a process for each of the investor-owned utilities to file rate proposals with the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Additionally, SWEEP will stay very busy advocating for other important policies on climate, appliance efficiency, and clean lighting.

Kevin Emerson, Utah Clean Energy’s Building Efficiency & Decarbonization Director
2022: In close collaboration with SWEEP, Utah Clean Energy (UCE) worked throughout 2022 to advocate for state adoption of the latest building energy code, the 2021 IECC. While our electric-ready amendment was tabled by the state’s Uniform Building Code Commission, after many, many meetings and lots of technical support, the Commission still recommended adoption of the 2021 IECC (specifically, the full commercial code and an amended version of the residential code). We also worked with industry partners to keep this policy issue front and center in the media, highlighting the many benefits of more efficient buildings. Additionally, UCE staff organized a group of Utah’s local government leaders who are interested in supporting net zero and all-electric construction. Through this work, UCE built positive momentum for local government stretch codes in 2023.
2023: In 2023, two of our priorities are continuing to support the adoption of the 2021 IECC and to work closely with local government leaders to provide technical support for voluntary stretch code policies. These stretch code policies will encourage and incentivize new construction across Utah to move toward net zero and all-electric construction – helping to tackle air pollution and climate emissions, and promote energy affordability throughout the state.

Nissa Erickson & Tyler Merriweather, Federal Funding Implementation Coordinators
2022: Last year, SWEEP led state-wide coalition letters calling on state, Tribal, city, and county leaders to take full advantage of the incredible opportunities presented by the federal IRA and BIL. We urged state and local leaders to maximize the benefits of new federal funding to save people money on energy and transportation, create new jobs, and expand prosperity while improving health and protecting the climate. SWEEP also hosted federal funding informational webinars for government officials and staff in the region.
2023: Opportunities abound in 2023 to implement the IRA and BIL as federal program guidance is rolled out. How states and local governments choose to implement new policies will have a large effect on their overall impact. SWEEP will continue to help local and state governments navigate and access new grants and provide advice and assistance to build a clean and efficient energy future. We are also planning to publish a Justice40 guidebook to ensure equitable implementation of federal programs.

Jim Meyers, Buildings Program Director
2022: Last year was a big year in the Southwest, with many local governments across four states adopting the 2021 IECC, including many focused on electric-ready construction. EV infrastructure in codes has also advanced in these states, and utilities within the SWEEP region continue to support energy code advancement through staff and training. 
2023: We look forward to working with state energy offices, utilities, and local communities to achieve widespread adoption of the 2021 IECC, including electric-ready and EV infrastructure for new buildings. SWEEP also looks forward to supporting the development of the 2024 IECC with many of the electrification requirements we saw at the state and local levels in 2022.

Angie Dykema, Nevada Representative
2022: Last year in Nevada was focused on administrative implementation of previous legislative wins in 2021, mainly focused on transportation electrification and energy efficiency. NV Energy filed its first Transportation Electrification Plan, an unprecedented $350 million investment which, if adopted, would be one of the largest utility plans in the country. The utility’s Economic Recovery and Transportation Electrification Plan was also approved at the Public Utilities Commission in accordance with 2021’s Senate Bill 448. SWEEP participated in the Clark County working group that developed recommendations on a model EV-Ready Infrastructure Ordinance, which the county commissioners recently adopted to ensure new development is future-ready for EVs. The Public Utilities Commission also approved a settlement with NV Energy and our partners providing key wins for NV Energy’s Demand Side Management plan.  
2023: As we gear up for the next legislative session, SWEEP will continue our work on building electrification and looking for opportunities to advocate for use of federal funding toward clean energy.

Caryn Potter, Arizona Representative
2022: SWEEP had many wins in Arizona in 2022, centered around enhancing the role of energy efficiency and transportation electrification in utility resource decision-making. This year, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) helped to revive energy efficiency commitments in its decisive planning vote on Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power’s latest Integrated Resource Plans. The Commission’s decision includes requirements for the utilities to improve transparency and information sharing by expanding stakeholder access to utility modeling software and data. We also celebrated the passage of both utilities’ latest demand-side management plans that focus on eliminating energy waste and improving economic productivity, all the while reducing the need to generate power from more expensive options and supporting more local jobs.
2023: As Arizona’s legislative session moves into full swing and the ACC hits the ground running with two significant rates cases this year, SWEEP is optimistic that we can advance sensible, consumer-protecting programs and policies for utility customers while working with our state and local government partners to ensure energy efficiency is accessible by all.

Justin Brant, Utility Program Director
2022: A big focus this past year was building decarbonization and the transition to heating and cooling our buildings with electricity rather than gas. While SWEEP may not have gotten all of the results we wanted in 2022, we have begun the difficult conversations around the gas transition in many of our states. In Colorado, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved the West Metro Gas Expansion, a significant expansion of Xcel Energy’s gas distribution system in parts of Denver, Lakewood, and Edgewater, against the opposition of SWEEP and other parties. However, the Commission stated that Xcel must do better in the future at considering non-pipeline alternatives to such investments. This type of analysis will be furthered by the PUC’s completion of new rules governing gas energy efficiency, gas system planning, and Clean Heat Plans, which will require utilities to undergo such planning and to submit Clean Heat decarbonization plans in the coming years. SWEEP also began conversations about long-term gas infrastructure and investments in Arizona as part of Southwest Gas’ rate case, and we hope to work with the ACC and other stakeholders on developing  gas system planning protocols in the future.
2023: We look forward to Xcel filing the first Clean Heat and gas infrastructure plans, laying out the utility’s portfolio of resources to meet decarbonization requirements, and assessing expected upgrades to its distribution system, as well as the completion of the utility’s plans to set electric, gas, and beneficial electrification targets for the next four years. In addition, the Public Service Company of New Mexico and NV Energy will both file updated energy efficiency plans this year, which SWEEP is excited to engage in. Finally, SWEEP looks forward to combining utility program monies with the general investment from the IRA and BIL to significantly expand energy efficiency and electrification across the Southwest.

As we continue full speed ahead with our goals for this year, all of us at SWEEP are thankful for your continued support in all we will accomplish together.