Are Utilities or States the Leaders in Renewable Energy & Efficiency?

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Originally published at

A June 2014 study by Ceres highlighted the top electric utilities for renewable energy and efficiency. In an article discussing the findings, Utility Dive suggested that there are “wide disparities […] in the extent to which electric utilities currently deliver renewable energy and energy efficiency.”

To find the source of these disparities, look no further than the state policies governing these “leaders.”


For example, #1 ranked NV Energy (Nevada) is required to meet a 25% renewable energy standard by 2025. Xcel Energy, ranked #2, is required to deliver just over 27% renewable energy no later than 2020 (a weighted average across its service territories in Minnesota, Colorado, New Mexico, & Wisconsin).*  Pacific Gas & Electric (#3), Sempra Energy (#4), and Edison International (#5) are California’s three investor-owned utilities, all facing a 33% by 2020 renewable energy standard.

State Policy Makes Renewable Energy Leaders Among Utilities

utility RE ranking by state policy ILSR

Five top-ranked utilities, serving five states with ambitious renewable energy policies. Hardly coincidence.

The top utilities for energy efficiency? Four of the five from above, substituting Northeast Utilities for NV Energy. Let’s see how the energy efficiency policies in the states where they operate stack up.


The three California utilities make the top 5 list, and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) rates California’s energy efficiency policy #2 in the nation. Northeast Utilities serves primarily Massachusetts and Connecticut customers, ranked #1 and #5 respectively. Xcel Energy may be the only surprise. The weighted average of state energy efficiency policies where it serves is #15. And why didn’t NV Energy make the list? Perhaps because state energy efficiency policy in Nevada ranks #33 according to ACEEE.

State Policy Makes Energy Efficiency Leaders Among Utilities

utility EE ranking by state policy ILSR

Five top-ranked utilities, and at least four in states with ambitious energy efficiency policies. Hardly coincidence here, either.

There’s nothing wrong with applauding electric utilities for advancing toward a more efficient, low-carbon electricity system, but neither should we overlook who’s responsible. It’s state legislators that have forced these energy companies into leadership, and who have received plaudits or penalties at the ballot box.

As for the utilities, there’s no doubt they are competent at complying with the law.

Photo Credit: Pete Prodoehl via Flicker (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

This article originally posted at For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter or get the Democratic Energy weekly update.

*Of their sales in these 4 states, Xcel sells 42% of their electricity in MN, 38% in CO, 12% in NM, and 8% in WI.

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John Farrell

John directs the Democratic Energy program at ILSR and he focuses on energy policy developments that best expand the benefits of local ownership and dispersed generation of renewable energy. His seminal paper, Democratizing the Electricity System, describes how to blast the roadblocks to distributed renewable energy generation, and how such small-scale renewable energy projects are the key to the biggest strides in renewable energy development.   Farrell also authored the landmark report Energy Self-Reliant States, which serves as the definitive energy atlas for the United States, detailing the state-by-state renewable electricity generation potential. Farrell regularly provides discussion and analysis of distributed renewable energy policy on his blog, Energy Self-Reliant States (, and articles are regularly syndicated on Grist and Renewable Energy World.   John Farrell can also be found on Twitter @johnffarrell, or at

John Farrell has 518 posts and counting. See all posts by John Farrell

2 thoughts on “Are Utilities or States the Leaders in Renewable Energy & Efficiency?

  • States clearly have to take the lead. Utility Companies in most part of this nation cling stubbornly to their old business model of “sell more electricity=make more money”. Unless states set the requirements for these curmudgeons they will never change their way of doing business.

    • Yes, DUKE will only come kicking and screaming. And how the heck did Ohio get a star for most improved? The governor delayed our standard by several years, ALEC claimed a big Ohio victory.

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