About the State Energy Program

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s State Energy Program (SEP) provides funding and technical assistance to states, territories, and the District of Columbia to enhance energy security, advance state-led energy initiatives, and maximize the benefits of decreasing energy waste. SEP emphasizes the state’s role as the decision maker and administrator for program activities within the state that are tailored to their unique resources, delivery capacity, and energy goals.

SEP was created by Congress in the early 1970’s to encourage and facilitate state programs to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. The purpose of SEP is to promote the efficient use of energy and reduce the rate of growth of energy demand through the development and implementation of specific state energy programs.

Download a summary fact sheet that highlights how SEP helps states plan and implement energy efficiency and learn more about SEP’s goals and history below.

Program Goals

SEP works with state and territory energy offices to address the following goals:

  • Increase the energy efficiency of the U.S. economy 
  • Implement energy security, resiliency, and emergency preparedness plans 
  • Reduce energy costs and energy waste
  • Increase investments to expand the use of energy resources abundant in states
  • Promote economic growth with improved environmental quality.

Program Activities & Outcomes

The State Energy Program provides annual funding to 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the five U.S. territories to support a nationwide infrastructure of state energy offices. Since 2010, SEP has provided states and territories with more than $300 million in financial assistance.  Implementation of this funding by the states has resulted in a wide range of benefits to states, including:

  • Implementation of energy security, resiliency, and emergency preparedness plans
  • Development of state-led strategic energy initiatives
  • Investments to expand use of energy resources abundant in a state
  • Reduced energy waste in more than 20,000 buildings (125 million square feet) through energy efficiency upgrades
  • Installation of more than 60,000 renewable energy systems (8 million kilowatt hours)
  • Education of more than 2 million people in performing energy audits and upgrades
  • Successful piloting of innovative energy projects with the private sector, K-12 schools, and universities
  • Execution of Energy Savings Performance Contracts to undertake retrofit projects in public facilities
  • Development of implementation models that serve as “how-to” guides for other states who wish to replicate the programs that are achieving energy efficiency savings.

Technical Assistance for States: SEP provides critical technical assistance to states and territories to maximize the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the nation. Over decades of work, SEP and its stakeholders have developed institutional knowledge on how to help state and local governments create new partnerships and connect with energy efficiency and renewable energy resources. This includes resources to help develop and implement financing mechanisms for institutional retrofit programs; loan program and management; energy savings performance contracting; comprehensive residential programs for homeowners; transportation programs that accelerate use of alternative fuels; and renewable programs that remove barriers and support supply side and distributed renewable energy.

SEP maintains a couple of platforms to share state and local government best practices:

Program History 

The State Energy Program originated as the State Energy Conservation Program (SECP), established during the energy crisis of the early 1970s. The energy crisis resulted in a national increase in awareness of America’s dependence on foreign oil. Congress responded to this mounting public concern with new legislation. New laws established a broad range of conservation programs and promoted new, more efficient sources of energy. The U.S. Department of Energy was created to lead and administer these new programs.
Several pieces of legislation formed the framework for SEP:

  • The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (P.L. 94-163) cornerstone of federal energy conservation legislation, established programs to foster conservation in federal buildings and major industries throughout the states.
  • The Energy Conservation and Production Act of 1976 (P.L. 94–385) took the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 one step further by including incentives for conservation and renewable energy and providing loan guarantees for energy conservation in public and commercial buildings.
  • The Warner Amendment of 1983 (P.L. 95-105) allocated oil overcharge funds—called Petroleum Violation Escrow funds—to state energy programs. In 1986, these funds became substantial when the Exxon and Stripper Well settlements added more than $4 billion into the funds.
  • 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 and also expanded the policy development and technology deployment role for the states. Many EPAct regulations extended through 2000.
  • 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 and also expanded the policy development and technology deployment role for the states. Many EPAct regulations extended through 2000.

In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided $3.1 billion for SEP formula grants with no matching fund requirements, allowing the program to provide even more leadership and support to states.