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Report names two Mass. utilities as most energy efficient

The Massachusetts utility operations of two New England utilities, Eversource Energy and National Grid USA, are the most energy-efficient major electric utilities in the United States, according to a new ranking by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, or ACEEE, followed by California-headquartered Pacific Gas and Electric Co., a subsidiary of PG&E Corp.

Based on an assessment of efficiency policies and customer programs of the country's 51 largest electric utilities, the 2017 Utility Energy Efficiency Scorecard released June 14 highlights a regional rift: Northeastern and Western utilities are the sector's top savers, while Southern and Mid-Atlantic utilities lag.

Southern Power Co. subsidiary Alabama Power Co., the lowest-performing utility in the ranking, was among several Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic utilities at the bottom of the list. Other efficiency underperformers in the report, which relies on 2015 data, include Dominion Energy Inc., Entergy Corp.'s Louisiana arm and NextEra Energy Inc.'s Florida Power & Light Co.

"We hope this will encourage them to do better," ACEEE research analyst Grace Relf said in an interview, noting that some of the poor performers already are making moves to improve their efficiency programs while others are limited by the state regulatory environments in which they operate. "A lot of top achievers are in regions where regulators and policymakers support energy efficiency, but there are outliers," she added.

Exelon Corp. subsidiary Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., for instance, ranked fourth, just behind PG&E, but beat out three other utilities in efficiency-minded California: Edison International's Southern California Edison Co., Sempra Energy subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric Co. and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. While SoCalEd and SDG&E both made the top 10, LADWP was ranked 20th. "California is clearly committed to energy efficiency, but [LADWP] has more work to do," Relf said.

The list also highlighted some corporate focus on efficiency. Eversource's Connecticut utility operations were among the 10 highest ranked, as was Exelon subsidiary Commonwealth Edison Co. Xcel Energy Inc. utility operations in Colorado and Minnesota also ranked among the 10 highest. Meanwhile, Southern Co., Duke Energy Corp. and FirstEnergy Corp. each had two utility subsidiaries among the 10 lowest-ranked efficiency efforts.

One critical metric considered in the report was net energy savings as a percentage of retail sales. Driven in part by state policy, the Massachusetts arms of Eversource and National Grid saved more than 3% of their retail sales in 2015, compared to an average of 0.89% for all 51 utilities in the ranking. On the other end of the spectrum, Alabama Power saved just 0.02% of retail sales in 2015, according to the report.

"It is exciting to see a lot of room for growth in the sector," Relf said.