Regional News Briefs

2003 Archives


New Report Profiles Nation's Best Natural Gas Energy Efficiency Programs

On December 9 the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy released "Responding to the Natural Gas Crisis: America's Best Natural Gas Energy Efficiency Programs," which profiles over 30 examples of outstanding natural gas energy efficiency programs from around the nation. The programs profiled in the report cover a dozen different program categories, ranging from low-income residential programs to industrial "custom" efficiency programs. There are examples of practical, successful natural gas energy efficiency programs for all customer sectors and all major natural gas end-uses. The full text of "Responding to the Natural Gas Crisis," as well as individual profiles of the "best programs," can be downloaded for free at

SWEEP Launches New Energy Efficiency Website

On December 8 SWEEP announced the development of a web-based information resource that will assist Colorado businesses in reducing their use of energy and lowering their energy bills. The Energy Efficiency Guide for Colorado Businesses has been developed by SWEEP with funding from the Colorado Governor's Office of Energy Management and Conservation (OEMC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 8 office. Targeted to business and facility owners and managers, the aim of the Guide is to point out opportunities for Colorado businesses to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings and operations, and help businesses obtain assistance in identifying and implementing energy efficiency projects.

New Mexico Adopts IECC 2003

On December 19 New Mexico's Construction Industries Commission adopted the 2003 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). With this action, New Mexico joins 24 other states that have adopted a relatively current version of the IECC. The updated building code will apply to new homes and commercial buildings built in New Mexico starting in July 2004. SWEEP estimates that the updated energy code will save households and businesses in New Mexico about $170 million net during 2005-2020. In a press release applauding the action, SWEEP's Executive Director Dr. Howard Geller stated, "This up-to-date energy code will make new buildings in New Mexico less expensive to operate and more comfortable. The energy code will also lead to the use of higher quality construction materials and building techniques, thereby upgrading the skills and practices of New Mexico's construction industry."


Utah Power Announces Expansion of Energy Efficiency Programs

At a Demand-Side Management Advisory Group meeting November 20, Utah Power announced it will expand its current demand-side management (DSM) programs in 2004 while initiating a number of new programs. Utah Power is the main electric utility in Utah, and is a subsidiary of PacifiCorp. While details are still being determined, the utility is planning to target a number of the new programs to its residential customers in particular. DSM program spending by Utah Power should reach $20-25 million in 2004-05, a significant increase over 2002-03 spending.


Utah Utility Commission Approves Energy Efficiency Program Cost Recovery Policy

The Utah Public Service Commission has approved a new policy that will allow utilities to recover the costs of energy efficiency and load management programs as they are incurred. This will facilitate the expansion of energy efficiency programs in Utah, since previously utilities had to wait until a rate case to get cost recovery. The new policy also allows larger commercial and industrial customers to "self-direct" some or all of the money they would normally pay for utility programs to energy efficiency projects within their facilities. These policies were developed through a negotiation among interested parties, a process in which SWEEP actively participated. PacifiCorp, the main investor-owned utility in Utah, supported these policies and is also in the process of expanding its energy efficiency programs in Utah.

SWEEP Presents Recommendations to Arizona Corporation Commission

On October 30, Jeff Schlegel, SWEEP's Arizona representative, delivered the keynote presentation at a demand-side management/energy efficiency workshop sponsored by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC). This was the first in a series of DSM workshops that the ACC will be hosting in the coming months. The presentation outlined the potential for energy efficiency in Arizona, discussed the costs and benefits, and made policy recommendations for achieving greater levels of energy efficiency in the state.


Howard Geller Featured in ReFocus

SWEEP's executive director Howard Geller was interviewed for the July/August 2003 issue of ReFocus, the official magazine of the International Solar Energy Society. Dr. Geller spoke about his latest book, Energy Revolution: Policies for a Sustainable Future, and current American energy policy and how it might play a role in the 2004 presidential election. Read the interview here.

New White Paper Addresses Colorado's Natural Gas Crisis

SWEEP joined Western Resource Advocates (formerly the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies), E-Star Colorado, and Environment Colorado to release a white paper, Ending the Natural Gas Crisis: The Critical Role of Efficiency and Renewables. It argues that there is limited potential for increased gas production in the region, and that greater energy efficiency and renewable energy production are the best strategies for reducing natural gas use and lowering gas and electricity bills.

New White Paper Outlines Energy Efficiency Potential for Colorado Springs

SWEEP and Western Resource Advocates earlier this month released a white paper (see link below) outlining an energy efficiency and renewable energy strategy that, if implemented, would enable Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) to avoid the construction of a 150MW coal-fired power plant south of the city. The white paper was prepared for an ad-hoc coalition of interested CSU customer-owners. CSU is the municipal utility for Colorado Springs. The white paper recommends an increased commitment on the part of the utility to demand-side management programs and the aggressive pursuit of renewable energy production, in particular wind power.


Arizona Pollution Prevention Work Group Releases Report

Formed in August 2002 to support preparation of Arizona's State Implementation Plan as required by the U.S. EPA Regional Haze Rule, the Pollution Prevention Working Group (P2WG) recently released its report and recommendations. The report includes a summary of all ongoing energy efficiency programs in the state, along with recommendations from a majority (but not all) work group members calling for expanded energy efficiency programs to help Arizona cut its pollution emissions. SWEEP was a participant in the work group, and helped develop the report's analyses and recommendations.

SWEEP Presents Recommendations at Regional Natural Gas Forum

Jeff Schlegel, SWEEP's Arizona representative, presented recommendations for enhancing natural gas efficiency efforts at a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored regional natural gas forum held in Phoenix, AZ on August 19. The recommendations include adopting gas savings goals, expanding utility-sponsored natural gas conservation programs, upgrading building energy codes, and supporting code implementation.


Center Releases Energy Initiative Report

On July 8 the University of Colorado's Center of the American West released What Every Westerner Should Know about Energy, a report based on findings from its 2002 conference on Western energy issues and research and consultations with scholars and other professionals in the energy industry. The report is designed to educate Westerners on energy issues, and hopes to be a useful tool to spark conversations and educate citizens about the West's energy future. Unfortunately, few of those conversations will include energy efficiency, as the report fails to adequately recognize the role efficiency can play in addressing the West's energy challenges.

Overreliance on Natural Gas Means Higher Bills

On June 15, 2003, the Rocky Mountain News published an editorial by Greg Sopkin, the chair of the Colorado Public Utility Commission, entitled "Overreliance on Natural Gas Means Higher Bills." In response to Commissioner Sopkin's call for the increased use of coal-fired and nuclear power plants, SWEEP executive director Howard Geller and Land and Water Fund of the Rockies executive director Bruce Driver penned this rebuttal, published by the News on July 7.

Colorado Governor Issues Performance Contracting Executive Order

Colorado Governor Bill Owens issued Executive Order D01403 this month to promote performance contracting and the use of energy service companies for implementing energy savings projects in Colorado state buildings and facilities. The Executive Order directs state agencies to conduct a feasibility study on performance contracting, issue a Request for Proposals, and follow through with implementation if technically and economically feasible projects and performance contracts are proposed.


Energy Efficiency Bill will Cut Energy Costs in Nevada

On June 11, Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn signed into law Assembly Bill 398, a bill that could result in about $120 million of energy savings in state and local buildings in Nevada during 2004-2015, according to estimates by SWEEP. AB 398 allows state agencies and local governments to enter into performance contracts with energy service companies for the purpose of installing energy efficiency and other cost-savings measures. Performance contracts may extend for a term of up to 15 years.

"A.B. 398 facilitates the use of performance contracting to upgrade the energy efficiency of state and local government buildings," stated Assemblyman Jason Geddes (R-Reno), sponsor of the bill. "Cutting energy costs in state and local facilities is especially important given Nevada's budget deficit, rising energy costs, and weak economy."

SWEEP, which assisted with the preparation of AB 398 and actively supported the bill as it moved through the legislative process, estimates that the bill could reduce energy use and costs in state and local buildings in Nevada by around 20 percent as of 2015.

Boulder County, Colorado Adopts 2003 IECC

On June 19, the Boulder County Commissioners adopted the 2003 International Energy Conservation Code as part of a package of updates to various county building codes. Other codes also updated by the commissioners to their 2003 editions include the International Building Code, International Residential Code, International Plumbing Code, International Mechanical Code, and the International Fuel Gas Code. The new codes go into effect on July 1, 2003. To learn more about the IECC, visit the web site of the Building Codes Assistance Project.


State Energy Efficiency Programs Keep Growing, in Contrast to Federal Retreat

Despite weak state budgets and a soft economy, states and utilities are boosting their investment in energy efficiency, while the federal government continues to cut efficiency programs. Information presented at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy's (ACEEE) recent Market Transformation Symposium in Washington, D.C. revealed that total state and utility funding for efficiency programs in 2003 is about $1.45 billion, up from $1.1 billion in 2000—a 32% increase. By contrast, the federal commitment to efficiency has shrunk since the Bush Administration took office. The administration is seeking to cut Department of Energy (DOE) energy efficiency funding by $36 million, or about 4%, while EPA is planning to cut ENERGY STAR®, the nation's best-known efficiency program, by about $15 million, or 30%. This would put federal efficiency spending at about 60% of state-based spending, when just a few years ago the federal commitment was roughly equal to state efforts.


Hybrid Incentive Bill Approved in Colorado

On Earth Day, April 22, 2003, Governor Bill Owens signed Senate Bill 03-91, sponsored by Senator Ron Tupa (D-Boulder), which will allow alternative fuel vehicles and hybrid-electric vehicles to use the state's high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes regardless of the number of occupants in the vehicles. Currently only vehicles with two or more occupants are allowed in HOV lanes. While the federal government currently prohibits this option, Colorado is working to have this prohibition repealed, at such time S.B. 91 will become law. S.B. 91 also supports the state's efforts to increase its use of alternative fuels in the state fleet and meet the federal mandate requiring Colorado and all states to purchase alternative fuel vehicles.

Hybrid-electric vehicles are now at the forefront of personal vehicle technology development. Though advances are being made in the use of this technology, a January 2003 New York Times article reported that only 150,000 hybrids have been sold worldwide since their introduction in the late 1990s. By comparison, 17.8 million new vehicles (cars and light-trucks) were purchased in the United States alone in 2000 (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis). Thus, in a letter to Colorado's state legislators, SWEEP supported S.B. 91 because it "is a common sense approach to supporting hybrid-electric vehicles…and provides a much-needed perk for purchasers of hybrid technology…"

To learn more, visit SWEEP's web page dedicated to hybrid-electric vehicles.

Energy Conservation Standard Becomes Law in Arizona

On April 28, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano signed into law House Bill 2324, a bill that is projected to result in about $90 million of energy conservation savings in state buildings and universities in Arizona by 2015. State agencies and universities are directed by the bill to achieve a 10% reduction in energy use per unit of floor area by 2008, and a 15% reduction by 2011; purchase cost-effective ENERGY STAR® or Federal Energy Management Program-designated energy-efficient products; and meet energy conservation standards developed by the Arizona Department of Commerce's Energy Office.

"H.B. 2324 will reduce energy use in state facilities and save the state government both energy and money," stated Rep. Randy Graf (R-Green Valley), sponsor of the bill. "Cutting energy costs in state buildings and facilities is especially important given Arizona's severe budget deficit. And the bill ensures that the state will ‘lead by example' in demonstrating model energy efficiency strategies and techniques that can also be embraced by Arizona's residential, commercial, and industrial sectors."

SWEEP played a critical role in crafting and lobbying for the new rules, and estimates that the bill will reduce energy costs in state buildings and universities in Arizona by around $11 million per year as of 2011. During the twelve-year period 2004-2015, the bill should cut energy costs for the state facilities by around $90 million.


Western Regional Air Partnership Issues Draft Haze Policy Recommendations

States across the country are in the process of developing State Implementation Plans (SIPs), as required by the Environmental Protection Agency's Regional Haze Rule, in order to reduce air pollution and improve visibility in national parks and wilderness areas. The Western Regional Air Partnership (WRAP) is helping to coordinate and assist western states with their plans. The WRAP created an Air Pollution Prevention Forum, which developed energy efficiency and renewable energy policy recommendations for states to consider including in their SIPs. The Air Pollution Prevention Forum issued its draft policy recommendations in February 2003, and SWEEP recently commented on the recommendations.

Energy Conservation Standard Approved in Arizona

House Bill 2324 was approved on March 6 by the Arizona House of Representatives. It now awaits introduction and committee hearing scheduling in the Arizona Senate. HB 2324 would increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs in state and public buildings by updating the energy code reference for state and public buildings; adopting energy savings goals for state agency buildings; and adopting EnergyStar® product procurement standards for state purchases. None of the proposed provisions in HB 2324 require new state funding, and the bill has been designed to have a significant positive financial impact on the state. Follow HB 2324 through the legislative process on our Legislative Alert page.

New Mexico Legislature Supports Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

The New Mexico State Legislature adopted a joint resolution requesting that the state government develop and adopt specific goals to implement the use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies throughout the state. The resolution supports the renewable energy and energy efficiency goals of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Senate Joint Memorial 89 sets a target goal of having 10 percent of New Mexico's electricity needs be generated from renewable sources by the year 2010. It also encourages state government to "lead by example" in regards to renewable energy and energy efficiency. While a renewable energy target is called out in the resolution, no complementary energy efficiency goal is included. SWEEP analysis in The New Mother Lode has shown that a proactive approach to energy efficiency, using off-the-shelf energy efficiency technologies, could reduce electricity demand in New Mexico by nearly 36 percent by 2020.

Progressive Electricity Policy in Ft. Collins, Colorado Gets Final Approval

On March 25, the Ft. Collins, Colorado City Council approved a new electricity policy developed by Fort Collins Utilities, the city's municipal utility. The new policy includes the goals of reducing per capita electricity consumption by ten percent by 2012, and peak load per capita electricity consumption by fifteen percent by 2012. This policy should lead to a major expansion of energy efficiency and load management programs in this fast-growing municipality of 120,000. Utility staff is now preparing a strategic plan for achieving the goals, and SWEEP is assisting in this effort. New energy efficiency programs are likely to be launched later this year or in 2004. The precedent-setting new policy also calls for obtaining fifteen percent of the city's electricity from renewable sources by 2017.


State of Colorado Releases Hybrid Vehicle Tax Credit Amounts

The State of Colorado recently released the amounts of its 2003 tax credit aimed at promoting the purchase of hybrid-electric motor vehicles. The state provides tax credits to individuals and businesses for the purchase of qualified vehicles, which use a combination gas and electric motor to improve gas mileage and lower tailpipe emissions.

Electric Utility Efficiency Standards Bill Introduced in Colorado

SWEEP has worked with Colorado State Senator Peggy Reeves (D-Fort Collins) to introduce an energy efficiency performance standards bill in the 2003 Colorado Legislative Session. If adopted, SB 129 would direct qualifying investor-owned utilities - specifically Xcel Energy - to save one percent of its annual retail electricity sales each year through energy efficiency programs and the purchase of energy savings credits.

SWEEP estimates that consumers and businesses in Colorado would save over $1 billion net during 2003-2020 - actual electricity bill savings minus the cost of the energy efficiency programs. By reducing electricity use by 16% in 2020, water consumption will be reduced by about 850 million gallons per year by 2010 and about 2.3 billion gallons per year by 2020. Nearly three 300 MW baseload power plants could be avoided by 2020 due to the need for less electricity, thereby reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and carbon dioxide.

Xcel Energy meets energy savings goals similar to those proposed in SB 129 in Minnesota, where it is based and where it is the largest utility in the state - circumstances remarkably similar to their situation in Colorado.

New State Energy Policy for Wyoming

The Wyoming Energy Commission is developing a new state energy policy. Energy efficiency is one of the areas covered, and SWEEP is assisting the Commission with its energy efficiency review and recommendations. The draft energy efficiency chapter recommends: 1) updating the state's building energy code and supporting implementation of the code at the local level; 2) expanding utility energy efficiency programs in Wyoming; 3) expanding state-funded energy efficiency programs; 4) strengthening energy efficiency efforts in state facilities; and 5) initiating a promotion and recognition program to encourage companies in Wyoming to reduce their energy or carbon intensity.

PacifiCorp Issues New IRP

PacifiCorp, a large integrated utility operating in six western states, including Utah and Wyoming, has issued a new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The IRP includes a variety of new and expanded demand-side management (DSM) programs that, combined, will provide 450 MW (average) of electricity savings by 2013. The DSM programs will be implemented in Utah, Wyoming, and the other states in which PacifiCorp operates. SWEEP assisted PacifiCorp in developing a number of the energy efficiency programs included in the IRP, including residential air conditioning and appliance programs. PacifiCorp has also committed to implementing additional energy efficiency programs if cost-effective programs can be identified. The IRP is available online at the PacifiCorp web site.

Electric Utility Efficiency Standards Bill Defeated in Committee

On February 11, 2003, the Senate Business Affairs and Labor Committee failed to approve a bill sponsored by State Senator Peggy Reeves (D-Fort Collins) that would have directed qualifying investor-owned utilities - specifically Xcel Energy - to save one percent of its annual retail electricity sales each year through energy efficiency programs and the purchase of energy savings credits.

SWEEP estimates that Senate Bill 129 would have saved Colorado consumers and businesses over $1 billion net during 2003-2020; reduced electricity use by 16% in 2020; reduced water consumption by about 2.3 billion gallons per year by 2020; and eliminated the need for three 300 MW baseload power plants, thereby reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, and carbon dioxide (see News item and links below). The aim of the bill was to bring Xcel's energy efficiency programs in Colorado up to the funding level they receive in Minnesota, Xcel's home state, but Xcel opposed the bill.

Survey Shows Coloradans Support Energy Efficiency and Renewables

A survey conducted by the Wells Fargo Public Opinion Research Program at the University of Colorado-Denver shows that Colorado residents prefer energy conservation and renewable energy over fossil-fuel generation by a wide margin, the Denver Post reports. By a 3-to-1 ratio, respondents said Colorado should meet its growing demand for electricity through energy efficiency measures rather than generation of more power. Residents would also prefer to see new electrical generation come from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and hydropower instead of coal and natural gas.

State of Nevada Releases 2003 Energy Status Report

The state of Nevada this month released its 2003 Nevada Energy Status Report. Distributed to the governor and state legislature, the report includes assessments of the adequacy of Nevada's energy supplies; outlines activities relating to energy efficiency and renewable energy development; and discusses the Comprehensive Energy Plan for Nevada, a plan that supports an efficiently used, reliable, affordable, and diverse energy supply for the state. To view the report and learn more, visit


New Report on Advancing Energy Efficiency in Commercial Buildings

A new report outlining strategies for advancing energy efficiency in commercial buildings in Colorado is now available at The report, prepared by a group of energy efficiency experts including a representative from SWEEP, provides recommendations in the areas of building codes, financial incentives, and education efforts. The group was convened by E-Star Colorado, and the Colorado Governor's Office of Energy Management and Conservation is now implementing some of the recommendations in the report.

Appliance Standards Bill Introduced in Colorado

SWEEP has joined with Colorado State Representative Alice Borodkin (D-Denver) to introduce an appliance standards bill in the 2003 Colorado Legislative Session. The bill, based on a model act developed by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, sets minimum energy efficiency standards for ten products currently not covered by federal standards, including ceiling fans, torchiere-type light fixtures, commercial refrigerators, and commercial clothes washers.

SWEEP projects that the bill will save consumers and businesses about $740 million and lower water use in the state by nearly 8 billion gallons during 2005-2020.

Appliance Efficiency Standards Bill Defeated in Committee

On January 27, 2003 the House Information and Technology Committee failed to approve a bill sponsored by Rep. Alice Borodkin (D-Denver) that would have set minimum energy efficiency standards on ten products not covered by federal efficiency standards. SWEEP estimates that House Bill 1168 would have saved consumers and businesses in Colorado about $740 million and lowered water use by nearly 8 billion gallons during 2005-2020 (see News item and link below).