Study ranks N.D. last in efficiency
FARGO -- North Dakota finished last among the states in a ranking of progress in striving toward energy efficiency. The scorecard was released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a group that has backing by the U.S. Departmen...
FARGO -- North Dakota finished last among the states in a ranking of progress in striving toward energy efficiency.
The scorecard was released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a group that has backing by the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency.
The council's report also listed North Dakota as among the 10 states "most in need of improvement," in pushing energy-efficiency, along with neighboring South Dakota and Wyoming.
Minnesota, by contrast, was ranked among the top 10 most energy-efficient states, placing No. 8. Minnesota passed the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007, which set energy-saving goals for utilities of 1.5 percent of retail sales each year.
The study concluded that North Dakota lacks many policies that encourage an energy-efficient economy, including building codes with energy standards and incentives for utilities to reward customers for making their homes more energy efficient.
But some complain that the scorecard didn't credit some steps North Dakota recently has taken, including adopting energy efficiency standards as part of the state building code as of Jan. 1.
"The report card unfortunately looks just surface deep and doesn't go very far," said Zachary Weis, North Dakota's state energy engineer. "I think they're missing the boat on a couple of key points."
Although most communities adopt the state's building code, Weis said many small, rural towns lack inspectors to enforce the code. But larger cities, such as Fargo and Grand Forks, are enforcing energy-efficiency building standards, he said.
Also, the state is distributing $8.5 million in rebates to consumers through investor-owned utilities such as Xcel Energy as well as rural electric cooperatives, Weis said.
That money is from the federal stimulus package, and will expire at the end of the year, but should help demonstrate the effectiveness of such programs, he said.
But Brad Crabtree, policy director of the Great Plains Institute, which promotes energy efficiency, renewable energy and "advanced" fossil fuels, said North Dakota undeniably ranks among the bottom of states in efforts to promote energy efficiency.
"We stand out for a lack of leadership," said Crabtree, who ran in 2010 as a Democrat for a seat on the North Dakota Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.
As an example, he said utilities have asked for energy efficiency policies, and the only "limited instance" involves one for Xcel Energy natural gas customers.
Energy efficiency, he said, does not mean sacrificing lifestyle, Crabtree said. It merely means doing the same things with less energy.
Mark Nisbet, Xcel Energy's North Dakota manager, said the state is making progress toward greater energy efficiency.
North Dakota regulators have been less inclined to favor efficiency programs that reward customers who are savvy enough to take advantage of incentives like rebates, he said.
Also, Nisbet said, the state has supported "demand management" programs, which help to curb energy use and energy audits.
Carl Pedersen, an energy educator at North Dakota State University, agreed. He said many homebuilders around the state are building energy-efficient homes because that's what customers want.
Patrick Springer is a reporter at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.