November 7, 2013 10:59:39 AM
JACKSON -- Mississippi is the most improved state in the nation for energy-saving policies, a ratings group says.
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy lauded the state Wednesday for efforts in the last year that included lawmakers passing a new energy code for buildings and the Public Service Commission passing requirements for electric and gas utilities to offer customers ways to use less energy.
"Mississippi is clearly on its way to becoming a regional leader in energy effiency," U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in telephone news conference. He said efficiency pushes in states align well with the Obama administration's efforts to limit climate change induced by carbon dioxide emisssions.
Moniz said states "are in the front lines of dealing with the consequences of climate change." He's scheduled Friday to visit the $5 billion coal-fueled power plant that Mississippi Power Co. is building in Kemper County, to spotlight its efforts to capture carbon dioxide emissions from burning lignite.
Mississippi ranked last in the council's 2012 efficiency rankings, improving to No. 47 this year. The council predicts Mississippi will continue to improve as efforts that were passed this year bear fruit. Mississippi scored 8 points on a 50-point scale, gaining 5.5 points from 2012, the largest increase of any state.
Massachusetts led the state rankings for the third year in a row.
"Massachusetts has some of the most ambitious energy-saving targets in the country," said Annie Downs, who authored the council's scorecard.
In July, the Mississippi Public Service Commission adopted rules requiring all gas and electric companies with more than 25,000 customers to begin offering energy efficiency programs within six months. Those programs could include energy audits, tuning customer heating and air conditioning systems, appliance and lighting rebates, weatherizing homes, and paying builders to make new homes and commercial structures more efficient.
Within three years, utilities would have to file more comprehensive plans. They would be allowed to recover the costs of implementing those plans by raising rates on all customers.
Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley, a Democrat, said commissioners imposed the rules in an effort to cut waste and save customers money.
"Every dime we can keep in Mississippians' pockets is a dime we can use to grow our economy," Presley said during the news conference.
Estimates cited by Presley say the rules would save consumers $2.3 billion through 2034 and create 9,500 jobs by 2030.
Steve Nadel, the council's executive director, said Mississippi's scorecard performance would likely improve again as new programs result in savings.
"We hope to be back next year as the most improved state again," Presley said.