When you compare those states that consume the most energy with those that consume the least, something jumps out at you. The states topping the list in terms of BTU per year are also the most populated states in the country: CA, TX, NY, FL, IL, PA and OH. This pattern holds true at the other end of the spectrum; the states with the least energy consumption are also the least populated. Vermont, the state with the smallest amount of energy used per year, has just over 60,000 more people than Wyoming, the least populated state in the U.S.
The energy behavior of states is complex and can’t be over-simplified. There’s the amount of industry and manufacturing within a state’s borders, the dispersion of its population, the number of structures and size of buildings, the total energy efficiencies embraced, and the age of the things that use energy like people, buildings, and technologies. In large part, most of these items are constants. They use the same amount of energy, day after day and month after month, with a slow decline in effectiveness over the years (usually more like decades).
However, this is not the case with buildings. Buildings use energy differently each day and each month. This is a factor of weather, temperature, humidity, building type, spaces, and occupancy. The weather varies dramatically as you go from region to region, as well as from season to season within each state. This is where the energy consumption of the states and their populations begins to breakdown. Look at BTU per person (AKA energy intensity) and the story looks completely different.
Texas and California are both gigantic states in terms of energy use and population, but of the two, Texas ranks in the top 10 (or top 47 for that matter) in terms of energy consumption per person. California ranks below Vermont. Although the state of New York holds the country’s third largest population, the energy consumed per capita ranks 50th of the 51, beating out only by Rhode Island. The question is, Why? And more importantly, can this investigation provide a radically different strategy for energy reduction in the U.S.?