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Editorial: Report highlights steps state can take to improve energy efficiency

Nov. 11, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

West Virginia and the energy industry have been inextricably linked for centuries now, starting not long after 1742 when coal was first discovered in what is now Boone County.

Since then, the state has consistently been one of the top coal-producing states in the nation, and more recently the extraction of natural gas has picked up significantly in the Mountain State.

But that’s the supply side. What about the usage side? Does the state do a good job of promoting efficient use of energy by residents and businesses?

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which works to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments and behaviors, says the state is making progress but still falls short of efforts underway in most other states.

The council produces an annual scorecard rating states on their policies and actions related to using energy efficiently. The benefit of energy efficiency, the council says, is to conserve the nation’s energy resources and thus improve its energy security, help household and businesses save money on energy costs and reduce harm to the environment and people. One upshot from all that is increased prosperity.

Those are all desirable consequences.

Regarding West Virginia’s performance on the scorecard, the state is making progress, according to the council’s most recent report. It was identified as one of five states (Ohio was another) making major strides from the previous rankings. The council noted that the state updated building codes this year for residential and commercial buildings to meet tougher standards. Also recognized this year was a new “complete streets” law encouraging that street and road projects consider all types of transportation, such as bicycles and walking, in their design.

Those actions helped push the Mountain State three places higher in the state rankings. Unfortunately, it remains in the worst-performing group at 46th, according to this year’s scorecard.

The chief criticism leveled by the council is that West Virginia does little to encourage energy efficiency otherwise. It offers no financial incentives to residents or businesses to implement energy-saving strategies, nor does it have any policies or incentives encouraging utilities to include energy efficiency as part of resource planning. It did note that utilities have in recent years started offering programs to help customers rate the energy efficiency of their structures and recommend possible improvements.

Overall, though, the state appears to be missing out on ways to help its residents save on utility bills.

The issue warrants more attention from the governor, lawmakers and the Public Service Commission to see whether the state can continue its trend of improvement.
 

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