SWEEP staff reflects on policy wins in 2021, gives hope for 2022

December 23, 2021 | SWEEP Staff

With 2021 fading into the history books and a new year almost upon us, we thought it’d be the perfect time to check in with some of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project’s (SWEEP) energy efficiency experts to find out about a top policy win they’re particularly proud of from this past year, as well as a New Year’s resolution for 2022. On the heels of all that we’ve accomplished and celebrated over the past two decades, we are hopeful and looking forward to adding to those achievements. Happy Holidays from all of us at SWEEP!

Elise Jones, Executive Director
2021: This year, with enthusiastic support from groups like SWEEP, we have seen The White House and Congress approve an unprecedented investment of federal dollars into energy efficiency, clean transportation, and other climate programs — designed to jump start our pandemic-stricken economy and transition to a cleaner and more equitable energy future.
2022: At the top of SWEEP’s 2022 to-do list is working with Southwest states and local communities to help them spend these dollars wisely to facilitate this much-needed transformational change, through energy efficient and electric-heated homes and businesses, widespread adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), greener manufacturing, reduced energy burdens on low-income families, and a cleaner, more resilient electricity grid.

Justin Brant, Utility Program Co-Director
2021: This year we were excited about the legislation the Colorado General Assembly passed related to building decarbonization. One bill requires electric utilities to develop beneficial electrification plans, while another will increase the amount of energy efficiency provided by natural gas utilities. The utilities in the state did not wait for passage of these bills to get started. Xcel Energy had an energy efficiency plan approved that includes the highest electric and natural gas savings goals ever, as well as a number of beneficial electrification options. And Black Hills Energy filed an energy efficiency plan that includes beneficial electrification measures for the first time.
2022: Next year the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Colorado will implement these two bills, in addition to the Clean Heat Bill, which sets greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets for natural gas utilities and requires them to submit plans that contain a portfolio of beneficial electrification, energy efficiency, leak reduction, renewable natural gas, and hydrogen to meet those targets. In addition, Xcel will propose energy efficiency and beneficial electrification goals for the next five years and electric utilities will file their first beneficial electrification plans with the PUC. It’s going to be a busy and exciting year!

Christine Brinker, Senior Buildings Policy Manager
2021: We were thrilled with passing benchmarking and building performance standards in the Colorado legislature this year — only the second such statewide policy — and Denver’s parallel achievement of enacting innovative, comprehensive, and widely-supported efficiency and electrification requirements for existing buildings.
2022: We look forward to working with cohorts of local communities to adopt the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) along with amendments to bring it to near-net-zero.

Angie Dykema, Nevada Representative
2021: The adoption of Nevada Clean Cars and the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 448 were major wins for transportation electrification in Nevada. By adopting the Advanced Clean Cars Standards, Nevada became the 16th state to greenlight regulations to expand the number of clean vehicles on the roads. Meanwhile, SB448 accelerates EV deployment by directing NV Energy to invest $100 million on EV charging stations and electric buses with a focus on underserved communities (funding that the Nevada Commission has since authorized!). (This new law also directs a doubling of funding for efficiency programs serving schools and low-income Nevadans.) State legislators also okayed new appliance efficiency standards to cut emissions and save consumers millions. So, all in all, it was a great year for efficiency in the Battle Born state!
2022: Looking ahead, I’m excited to work on the implementation of these new laws so that Nevadans can benefit from expanded EV access and the great savings that more efficient appliances generate.

Kevin Emerson, UCE Building Efficiency & Decarbonization Director
2021: A top highlight that I’m thrilled crossed the finish line in 2021 is Rocky Mountain Power’s proposal for — and the Utah Public Service Commission’s subsequent approval of — a new holistic, deep energy efficiency incentive program for new commercial buildings. This new program includes incentives for early-stage design charettes, low energy use intensity targets, energy modeling, and additional post-construction performance incentives. These new incentives are part of the program’s new emphasis on optimizing the performance of the whole building rather than system-specific energy savings.
2022: One of our top priorities here in Utah is to support the state’s adoption of the updated 2021 IECC, the most up-to-date energy conservation code for new residential and commercial buildings. What’s more, in Utah we are working closely with industry, community, and local government leaders to advocate for adding electric-ready requirements to Utah’s residential energy code. Given the powerful Utah home builder’s lobby that continues to oppose updated energy codes, this will be a big lift, but the long-term economic, environmental, and public health benefits of adopting both the 2021 IECC and our proposed electric-ready amendment make this a priority initiative.

Tammy Fiebelkorn, New Mexico Representative
2021: SWEEP’s priority bill in 2021 for New Mexico was a new Sustainable Building Tax Credit. This bill improved the efficiency standards for new buildings to qualify and added electrification incentives. For the first time, it also includes tax credits for existing buildings that improve efficiency with the credits doubled for low-income New Mexicans and for affordable housing projects.
2022: We look forward to the passage of SWEEP’s priority bill for 2022, the Low-Income Utility Affordability Act, which will start a Community Energy Efficiency Development Block Grant for local governments and Tribal entities to increase the efficiency of low-income New Mexico homes. The budget request for this bill is $10 million, which will provide assistance to many low-income residents with excessive energy burdens.

Matt Frommer, Senior Transportation Associate
2021: One of the most exciting and hard-fought policy wins in 2021 was the Colorado Department of Transportation’s GHG planning rule, a nation-leading policy that will shift investments away from high-polluting roadway expansion projects and toward clean mobility projects that improve access to transit, biking, and walking, while also supporting more efficient land use patterns to reduce vehicle-miles-traveled. With additional funding from SB21-260 and the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill, Colorado will spend more than $30 billion on transportation infrastructure between 2022 and 2050, and this rule will play a big part in guiding those investments towards projects that reduce pollution and improve transportation system efficiency.
2022: Next year will be a pivotal year for transportation as we settle into the “new normal” of post-pandemic travel behavior and allocate historic levels of new transportation funding. I look forward to working with Colorado legislators and the Polis Administration to revive transit ridership by increasing funding for transit service, building new bus-rapid transit lines, and providing fare-free transit during the 2022 ozone season. We’re also working on a bill that would encourage local governments to create more walkable and transportation-efficient communities by updating their zoning policies to allow for compact development, affordable housing, and transit-oriented development.

Neil Kolwey, Industrial Program Director/Building Electrification Specialist
2021: Working with the Beneficial Electrification League of Colorado, which SWEEP co-leads with the Colorado Energy Office, we launched a new website to promote greater consumer/homeowner awareness of heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and induction cooking. Check it out at loveelectric.org!
2022: SWEEP will release an update of its 2018 study of the benefits of heat pumps in residential buildings in Colorado and other Southwest states. We hope to leverage this study to spur greater adoption of heat pumps throughout the region, focusing on the most cost-effective applications.

Travis Madsen, Transportation Program Director
2021: More than 10 electric utilities across five states in the Southwest now have approved transportation electrification plans, with innovative new programs to help more people access the benefits of EVs. In addition, Colorado created several new public funding streams for transportation electrification through SB260. In total, we’ve helped to unlock well over $1 billion in new investment for clean, efficient transportation across our region, which will help people save money on transportation, enjoy cleaner air, and reduce the impacts of climate change.
2022: I’m looking forward to working with state leaders across our region to accelerate the deployment of medium- and heavy-duty zero emission trucks and off-road equipment — an area that is poised for the same kind of transformation we’re now starting to see in the passenger vehicle fleet.

Jim Meyers, Building Program Director
2021: It’s gratifying to see so many states and local communities adopting the 2021 IECC — the most-energy-efficient model code in the history of building codes — and going beyond by adding in provisions to prepare for EVs and heat pumps systems.
2022: As a member of the national committee developing the 2024 IECC, I look forward to helping the next code be as energy-efficient and user friendly as possible.

Caryn Potter, Utility Program Manager
2021: The Arizona Corporation Commission’s (ACC) recent approval of a comprehensive transportation electrification plan is the culmination of years of work by hundreds of stakeholders, including SWEEP. The plan charts a path for Arizona Public Service Company (APS) and Tucson Electric Power (TEP) to offer programs and investments to enable one million EVs by 2030, which will be critical for addressing the state’s ozone nonattainment challenges. Utility regulators also directed APS and TEP to file a new Plan in June — so there will be plenty of work to tackle in the new year!
2022: Earlier this year, Arizona regulators directed the restoration and expansion of APS’ energy efficiency programs, and I’m excited to see what the Commission does next. Last week, APS filed its 2022 demand-side management plan, which calls for even greater energy savings (savings equivalent to 1.4% of the utility’s retail sales). I hope the Commission acts quickly to approve new programs for the benefit of all Arizonans.

Ellen Zuckerman, Utility Program Co-Director
2021: This year was a big year in Arizona. Regulators took key steps to finalize comprehensive Energy Rules that include a 10-year extension of the state’s efficiency standard, requirements for competitive bidding, and the institution of a carbon-free electricity standard. They also cut APS’ rate and made major changes to rate design that were championed by SWEEP and its partners at Western Resource Advocates. Both decisions provide important consumer safeguards on rising utility bills.
2022: As the energy sector continues to evolve, SWEEP is proud of the work it is doing in partnership with Tribal groups and other impacted communities to advocate for a just and equitable transition (JET), including our support of the largest just transition plan ever announced by a utility and our work to support the Empowered Transition initiative. SWEEP will be actively engaged in the upcoming ACC proceedings on JET in continued support of impacted community members.

As we press forward with our goals for the coming year, all of us at SWEEP are thankful for your continued support for all we can accomplish together.