WHEN it comes to a national energy strategy, the United States is
still at the drawing board.
With no decision at the top, individual states have struck out on
their own. They have passed a raft of energy-conservation laws and
Among the most innovative programs:
- Washington State has upgraded its energy-conserving building
codes for new homes - now the strictest nationwide. The new codes
take effect next July.
- Under a new Iowa law, electric utilities that need to expand
must consider cutting demand and other conservation measures before
building new plants.
- In Connecticut, state-owned vehicles will have to get at
least 27 miles per gallon by 1993; 45 m.p.g. by the year 2000.
"It's really absurd for us to set automotive regulations at the
state level," says Mary Mushinsky, chairwoman of the Connecticut
House Environmental Committee. "But if the feds won't do it, the
states have to."
"In the absence of strong federal leadership and a comprehensive
federal energy policy, a lot of states are stepping out on their
own," says Tom Curtis, director of natural resources for the
National Governors' Association.
Larry Morandi, program manager for the environment with the
National Conference of State Legislatures, says state policymakers
are linking environmental strategy with energy strategy.
"You get a `three-fer' out of it," explains Lawrence Alexander, a
Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities commissioner. "You save
valuable energy resources. You save consumers a lot of money. You
do something very positive for the environment at the same time."
Energy-saving measures probably won't come cheap. The costs of
reducing emissions of "greenhouse gases," for example, could range
from virtually nothing to as high 6 percent of the US gross national
product, the Governors' Association warned in a recent report.
In some policymaking areas, states have more jurisdiction than
the federal government.
A few states have passed measures encouraging utilities to adopt
demand-side management. The idea is that a power company that needs
to increase its energy supply won't automatically build a new power
plant. Instead, it might cut demand.
Iowa, for example, asks its electric utilities to spend up to 2
percent of their operating revenues (1.5 percent in the case of gas
companies) on energy-efficiency measures. They might distribute
energy-saving blankets for hot-water heaters to consumers or develop
plans to retrofit the lighting in commercial buildings.
THE savings on lighting alone can be substantial. Massachusetts
would have to spend about $4.5 million to retrofit its 5,000
state-owned buildings with energy-efficient lights, Mr. Alexander
says. But the state could save some $7 million in energy costs
during that first year alone, he adds.
Under the state utility department's new rules, Massachusetts
power companies will have to consider energy-conservation and
alternative-energy proposals on equal footing with traditional
solutions, such as building a power plant. …