State Energy Conservation Program Needs Reassessing

EMD-82-39: Published: Apr 21, 1982. Publicly Released: Apr 21, 1982.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

James Duffus, III
(202) 512-7756
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

As required by the Energy Conservation and Production Act, GAO made its annual report on program effectiveness, energy savings, financial controls, and compliance monitoring of the State Energy Conservation Program in six states. The report, which covers fiscal year (FY) 1979, has been updated to include 1980 data. The Administration's FY 1983 budget proposes to dismantle the Department of Energy (DOE) and terminate the program.

The principle problems hampering program effectiveness were that the states: (1) undertook a large number of programs that accounted for minimal energy savings but a major share of the funds; (2) undertook programs in the buildings areas which used methods with serious limitations; (3) set overly optimistic goals as to the population that could be reached and the extent of compliance; and (4) did not know the program's effect on consumption because they failed to measure savings attributable only to the State Energy Conservation Program (SECP). However, the program has been effective in terms of developing a state capability to manage energy programs. Twenty-one percent of the programs accounted for the major share of planned energy savings in five states. Program measures aimed at then residential areas in four states placed primary emphasis on types of audit and media outreach efforts, which GAO previously reported as having serious limitations. Eight mandatory program measures were fully implemented in the six states reviewed. In general, GAO found that the savings goals were based on overly optimistic factors. Thus, savings reported for 1980 were significantly overstated and not a valid measure of program progress. Effective monitoring and assessment of the program continue to be hampered by deficiencies in financial, planning, and progress reporting systems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE concurred with the recommendation and cited actions taken. The revised grant application procedures should be an improvement if data are supplied and progress reports are required in sufficient detail. The new grants management information system should be useful in monitoring some SECP financial aspects, but not the ones cited in the report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy or the head of the successor agency should assess their adequacy in providing a realistic evaluation of program accomplishments during reviews of quarterly state progress reports, if SECP is authorized beyond FY 1982. Progress reporting by the states should be in sufficient detail to provide accurate and complete information on the status of each program measure. Where progress reports are deemed inadequate, the Secretary of Energy or the head of the successor agency should provide the necessary guidance and instructions to the state for improvement of the progress reports.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE concurred with the recommendation and cited actions taken. The revised grants application procedures should be an improvement if data are supplied and progress reports are required in sufficient detail. The new grants management information system should be useful in monitoring some SECP financial aspects, but not the ones cited in the report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy or the head of the successor agency should revise SECP planning and reporting requirements if the program is authorized beyond FY 1982 to assure that financial systems at the state level are sufficient to provide accurate cost information by program measure. During periodic monitoring visits to state energy offices, DOE should determine the basis for each state's reporting of program measure costs and should provide needed policy guidance and technical assistance to states whose systems are not providing accurate accrued expenditure cost data. State plans should contain sufficient detail on actions planned during the year against which to compare actual progress. Plans should contain adequate descriptions of milestones, including specifics on quantifiable actions, such as the number of workshops, training classes, or audits planned during the year.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE cited past guidance to states (use is optional), but no planned actions. DOE also attributed the problem to the required measures. The analysis indicated that the least savings and greatest expenditures were for optional measures. GAO also believes that, after 6 years experience with various conservation programs, DOE should have the capability to determine the most cost effective approaches.

    Recommendation: The Department of Energy should carefully analyze the program measures during the review and approval of annual state plans and budgets to assure that: (1) each program measure and its approach are based on methods of demonstrated cost effectiveness; and (2) the objectives, milestones, and goals for population to be reached, expected compliance, and energy savings of each program measure are realistic and attainable based on overall experience with the particular type of measure and an evaluation of past accomplishments of each program measure under review. Based on this analysis, DOE should provide guidance to the states on any changes or improvements needed in the program measure plans, including disapproval of any program measure that DOE considers unable to meet the above assurances.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy or the head of the successor agency should review with the states the requirements concerning the use of State Energy Conservation Program funds to assure that funds are not used to finance non-State Energy Conservation Program activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE believes that inflated savings result from the legal requirement that part of the grant amount be based on an energy savings estimate. GAO believes that if properly administered, this requirement could give states incentive to achieve greater savings. Since use of the DOE revised energy savings guidance is optional, problems will continue if states do not use it.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy or the head of the successor agency should require that energy savings guidance previously provided is used in estimating future energy savings, if the State Energy Conservation Program is authorized beyond FY 1982.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  6. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE cited past guidance to states (use is optional), but no planned actions. DOE also attributed the problem to the required measures. The analysis indicated that the least savings and greatest expenditures were for optional measures. GAO also believes that, after 6 years experience with various conservation programs, DOE should have the capability to determine the most cost effective approaches.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy or the head of the successor agency, in cooperation with the states, should reassess the scope and future course of SECP, if the program is authorized beyond FY 1982. This reassessment should include efforts to: (1) concentrate on program measures of demonstrated effectiveness in reducing energy consumption; and (2) assist states in establishing program goals that are realistic and attainable.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Sep 14, 2016

Sep 8, 2016

Aug 11, 2016

Aug 9, 2016

Aug 4, 2016

Jul 15, 2016

Jul 14, 2016

Jun 20, 2016

Mar 3, 2016

Looking for more? Browse all our products here