Energy efficiency lagging; Kansas ranks 46th

TOPEKA — A national report released Wednesday shows Kansas lagging most states in its efforts to increase energy efficiency.

While Kansas could improve, state officials noted that the report also overlooked some of Kansas' efficiency efforts, which are gaining attention nationally.

Kansas came in 46th out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the report, released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

The nonprofit group aims to improve energy independence and security through efficiency. This is the fourth scorecard the council has produced since 2006.

Missouri and Oklahoma were tied with West Virginia at 43rd, and Nebraska ranked 47th.

Colorado came in 19th. Its efforts include spending about $60 million on efficiency programs for electricity and natural gas.

Colorado electric utilities saved 203,344 megawatt hours in 2008, according to the Energy Information Administration. By comparison, Kansas utilities saved 13,900 megawatt hours in 2008.

Westar Energy, one of the state's largest utility providers, did not report data to the Energy Information Administration.

Cara Sloan-Ramos, spokeswoman for the Kansas Corporation Commission, said no one from the state's energy offices had been contacted by the council, and she was trying to determine how the rankings were calculated.

"What I can find as far as Kansas goes, there is no mention of any of our big loan programs," Sloan-Ramos said. "There is a lot of stuff that they don't have."

She pointed to efforts such as the Facility Conservation Improvement Program, which helps public groups —including school districts and municipalities — work to find energy-efficient improvements for buildings.

That program is one of the best in the country, and other states are modeling their programs on it, she said.

Kathleen Hogan, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency, called Wednesday's report a "call to action to see where we could do more and what we could do better."

State governments were the best positioned to lead the way forward through policy changes and by investing money in efficiency programs, she said.

Hogan noted that over the past year, 20 states had either adopted or made significant progress toward requiring building codes that contributed to energy efficiency.

Among the states that made significant improvement were Utah and Arizona, which moved up 11 spots to 12th and 18th on the list, respectively, and New Mexico, which moved up eight spots to 22nd.

Arizona Corporation Commission chairwoman Kris Mayes said her state's efforts had saved customers about $9 billion.

Among its continuing efforts are requirements that the state reduce its energy load 22 percent by 2020 and achieve 2 percent annual energy savings by 2018, she said.

With the improvements in energy efficiency, "we are able to defer, delay or eliminate the need for new power plants," she said.

Arizona won't need to add to its power-generating capacity until 2030, and "we won't be building any new coal plants in Arizona ever again," she said.

That contrasts with Kansas, where the permit for a new coal-fired power plant in western Kansas for Sunflower Electric is working its way through the regulatory system.

Gov. Mark Parkinson, a Democrat who supports the project, also has pushed for more energy efficiency and green-energy jobs in the state.

"Current energy-efficiency programs and workforce training opportunities are under way in the state to help Kansans save on their energy costs and train Kansans for these jobs, but there is continuous room for improvement," his spokeswoman, Amy Jordan Wooden, said in an e-mail.