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State Energy Program Goals, Metrics, and History

The mission of the State Energy Program (SEP) is to provide leadership to maximize the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy in each state through communications and outreach activities, technology deployment, and by providing access to new partnerships and resources.

Program Goals

Working with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), state and territory energy offices work to address the following long-term national goals:

  • Increase the energy efficiency of the U.S. economy
  • Reduce energy costs
  • Improve the reliability of electricity, fuel, and energy services delivery
  • Develop alternative and renewable energy resources
  • Promote economic growth with improved environmental quality
  • Reduce the nation's reliance on imported oil.

SEP also aims to help states prepare for natural disasters and improve the security of the energy infrastructure. Specifically, SEP strives to help states:

  • Prepare an energy emergency plan
  • Develop individual state energy plans. Each state shares its plan with DOE, sets short-term objectives, and outlines long-term goals.

Program Metrics

Through SEP, DOE provides a wide variety of financial and technical assistance to the states. States routinely add their own funds and leverage investments from the private sector for energy projects. Some results and benefits of SEP are thus easily measured; for example, energy and cost savings can be quantified according to the types of projects state energy offices administer. Other benefits are less tangible; for example, developing a plan for energy emergencies.

For more information about the impacts of SEP, read the following reports:

An Evaluation of State Energy Program Accomplishments Program Year 2002
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
This 2002 program evaluation describes project areas in which the states’ various SEP efforts can be placed, finding that three-fourths or more of the responding states conducted activities using SEP funds in the areas of Workshops/Training, Mass Media, Technical Assistance, and Alternative Energy, and half or more engaged in activities related to EnergyAudits, School Education, Retrofits, Loans and Grants, Codes and Standards, and Energy Emergency Planning.

Estimating Energy and Cost Savings and Emissions Reductions for the State Energy Program Based on Enumeration Indicators Data
Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory
This study contacted all states, territories, and the District of Columbia and asked them to provide “enumeration indicators” data describing their SEP activities for their most recent completed program year. The 20 responding states were spread across the entire United States, representing 45.6% of all funds allocated by SEP in 2000 (from formula grants and special project awards combined) and 49.6% of the entire United States population. The study found that large savings and emissions reductions numbers, the substantial ratios of savings to funding, and the very short payback periods, while not precise, indicated that the SEP was operating effectively and having a substantial positive impact on the nation’s energy situation and its natural environment.

The State Energy Program: Building Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Capacity in the States
Source: National Association of State Energy Officials
This study documents the capacity-building effects that SEP has had on the states’ capacity to design, manage and implement energy efficiency and renewable energy programs based on 68 interviews with 40 current and former state energy officials in 24 states. The study finds that SEP has made a critical contribution to existing state capacity, setting the platform from which future state efforts can be launched.

Program History

Congress created SEP in 1996 by consolidating the State Energy Conservation Program (SECP) and the Institutional Conservation Program (ICP). Both programs went into effect in 1975. SECP provided states with funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects while ICP provided hospitals and schools with a technical analysis of their buildings and identified the potential savings from proposed energy conservation measures.

Several pieces of legislation formed the framework for SEP:

  • The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (P.L. 94-163) established programs to foster energy conservation in federal buildings and major U.S. industries. It also established the State Energy Conservation Program.

  • The Energy Conservation and Production Act of 1976.

  • The Warner Amendment of 1983 (P.L. 95-105) allocated oil overcharge funds—called Petroleum Violation Escrow (PVE) funds—to state energy programs. In 1986, these funds became substantial when the Exxon and Stripper Well settlements added more than $4 billion into this mix.

  • The State Energy Efficiency Programs Improvement Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-440) encouraged states to undertake activities designed to improve efficiency and stimulate investment in and use of alternative energy technologies.

  • The Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 1992 (P.L. 102-486) allowed DOE funding to be used to finance revolving funds for energy efficiency improvements in state and local government buildings. (However, no funding was provided for this activity.) EPAct recognized the crucial role states play in regulating energy industries and promoting new energy technologies. EPAct also expanded the policy development and technology deployment role for the states. Many EPAct regulations extended through 2000, and we are currently waiting for updates through the National Energy Policy.

  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $3.1 billion for SEP formula grants with no matching fund requirements.