Top Ten Energy Efficiency Stories from the Southwest in 2019

January 7, 2020 | Howard Geller

In 2019, SWEEP and its allies were instrumental in securing approval of numerous new policies that will advance energy efficiency and vehicle electrification in the Southwest. Here is my list of the Top Ten success stories of 2019, in no particular order regarding importance.

  1. Colorado Governor Issues EV Executive Order
    On January 17th, newly elected Colorado Governor Jared Polis issued and Executive Order supporting vehicle electrification in the state. Among its directives, it instructed the Department of Public Health and Environment to propose a Zero Emission Vehicle standard and state agencies to only support EVs in disbursing funds received from the settlement of the VW emissions cheating scandal. This was Governor Polis’s first Executive Order, and SWEEP helped to draft it.
  2. New Mexico Updates Efficient Use of Energy Act
    On March 13th, the New Mexico legislature adopted energy savings requirements for New Mexico’s regulated electric utilities during 2021-2030. Current requirements end in 2020. The legislation also facilitates reform of the utility business model so that utilities are not penalized financially when they help their customers save energy. The bill, championed by SWEEP, won bipartisan support in the legislature with backing from businesses, utilities, consumers, and environmental groups.
  3. Colorado Adopts Appliance Efficiency Standards; Nevada Lighting Standards
    On May 6th, the Colorado legislature adopted minimum energy-saving and water-saving standards for 15 different products sold in the state. SWEEP estimates that Colorado households and businesses will save over $1 billion as a result of this legislation. And the Nevada legislature adopted energy efficiency standards on lamps. The standards will ensure that Nevadans benefit from energy-efficient lamps despite the Trump Administration’s rollback of national lamp efficiency standards. SWEEP proposed and led the support for these bills.
  4. Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico Adopt Policies to Accelerate EV Adoption
    The Arizona Corporation Commission adopted a policy requiring regulated utilities to develop and implement EV pilot programs, with an emphasis on programs that benefit low-income Arizonans. Colorado adopted two major bills in 2019 to support EV adoption. HB 1159 extends Colorado’s leading EV tax credit until 2025. SB 77 requires regulated electric utilities to develop and implement plans to expand EV charging infrastructure in their service areas. In New Mexico, the legislature passed HB 521, a bill that also requires electric utilities to invest in EV charging infrastructure. Again, SWEEP initiated and backed these bills.
  5. Salt River Project Approves New Sustainability Goals
    On June 3rd, Salt River Project (SRP) announced wide-ranging sustainability goals for 2035. The goals include helping SRP customers acquire 500,000 electric vehicles, delivering over 3 million MWh of annual aggregate energy savings, acquiring at least 300 MW of dispatchable demand response capacity, and expanding strategic electrification programs to deliver 0.3 million MWh of annual energy impact by 2035. SWEEP heavily engaged with SRP as this non-regulated utility developed its new sustainability goals.
  6. Utility Energy Efficiency Programs Expand in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada
    New demand-side management (DSM) program plans were approved in 2019 for Tucson Electric PowerXcel Energy in Colorado, and NV Energy. All three plans commit the utilities to increase funding for and boost the energy savings achieved by their energy efficiency programs, thereby benefiting consumers, businesses and the environment. SWEEP played a major role in the dockets where state regulators approved these plans.
  7. Colorado Adopts the Zero Emissions Vehicle Standard
    On August 16th, Colorado adopted the zero emissions vehicle (ZEV) standard which requires automakers to sell an increasing number of electric (i.e., zero emissions) vehicles in the state. Colorado was the first state in a decade, and the only state other than west coast and northeastern states, to adopt the standard. The state’s public health and environment department estimates that the standard will prevent more than 3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions while saving Coloradans more than a billion dollars through 2030.
  8. Grid-Interactive Smart Homes and Commercial Buildings Gain Market Share
    Homes and commercial buildings in the Southwest are increasingly utilizing advanced controls and communications systems so that heating and cooling systems as well as appliances can operate in a smarter manner. These technologies allow utilities to modulate power demand, reduce costs and integrate higher levels of renewable generation into the electric system, without degrading product functionality or consumer comfort. SWEEP issued two reports in 2019, one on housing developments in the region that feature grid-interactive, smart homes, and the other on utility programs in the region that are incentivizing and making use of grid-interactive, smart buildings.
  9. Utilities and Policy Makers Promote Electrification of Buildings
    In Utah, a utility program is achieving significant reductions in energy usage in multifamily housing in part by facilitating the adoption of high efficiency heat pumps and heat pump water heaters (HPWHs). Over 4,000 heat pumps and HPWHs were installed as of October 2019, replacing inefficient and polluting gas-fired heating equipment. In Colorado, electric utilities, state agencies and clean energy advocacy groups including SWEEP formed a state chapter of the Beneficial Electrification League. Meanwhile, Colorado policy makers are contemplating legislation that would direct regulated utilities to support high efficiency heat pumps, HPWHs and other electrification technologies.
  10. State and Local Officials Strengthen Model Building Energy Code
    In December, state and local officials approved a new version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), the model energy code that most states and local governments follow when they update their building energy efficiency requirements. The 2021 IECC, which still needs to be certified and published, includes numerous energy efficiency enhancements compared to the 2018 IECC. This will lead to reduced energy consumption in new homes and commercial buildings. In addition, the new model energy code facilitates EV charging and ensures buildings can easily switch to electricity for space and water heating. SWEEP proposed code modifications, served on a key review committee, and encouraged involvement by state and local officials in the southwest region.

Howard Geller is the executive director of the Southwest Energy Efficiency Project, which he founded in 2001.