Maryland is fortunate to have one of the strongest energy efficiency laws in the United States. EmPOWER Maryland was created in 2008, and was affirmed by the legislature in 2017. In fact, in the 2017 American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, Maryland ranked #10, which is the top ranking for a mid-Atlantic state. This week, ecobeco’s Founder and President, Brian Toll, authored an opinion editorial that was published in the Baltimore Sun about the benefits of EmPOWER Maryland. We want to share this editorial with all of you, and we hope that you will 1) push your legislators to monitor how the Maryland Public Service Commission implements this important policy, and 2) particpate in one the many EmPOWER Maryland programs (including Quick Check-up, Home Performance, and ENERGY STAR New Homes that are performed by ecobeco).
Md. regulators can save you money and create local jobs
By Brian Toll
In April, Maryland’s General Assembly passed one of the most ambitious plans in the nation to reduce consumer demand for electricity. By reauthorizing the EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act, lawmakers put Maryland on a path to lower our energy consumption by 2 percent annually through 2020.
That’s good for Marylanders, but the program’s fate remains uncertain, and energy savings for utility customers hang in the balance. State regulators on the Public Service Commission must now either reject, accept or modify plans submitted by the state’s largest electric and gas utilities to achieve the 2020 goal. They will also review the Hogan administration’s plan to improve energy efficiency in homes and rental units of low-income Marylanders, for whom energy costs are a bigger financial burden.
Their decision, expected this fall, will have broad ramifications for Maryland’s electricity customers, economy and air quality.
The EmPOWER program helps homeowners, renters, and businesses save energy by offering incentives and assistance to improve the performance of buildings where they live or work. By adding insulation, sealing air leaks, upgrading HVAC systems, or installing LED lighting, EmPOWER make our homes and offices more energy efficient. To date, Marylanders have saved more than 51 million megawatt hours under EmPOWER, equivalent to the electricity used by 850,000 residential customers over five years.
Yet some commission members have expressed concerns about the surcharge utility customers pay to finance EmPOWER. Most customers in Maryland can find an EmPOWER line item on their utility bill of about $6 per month. As a small business owner, I sympathize with the commission’s interest in keeping costs low, but research shows that Marylanders get an enviable return on their investment in EmPOWER.
The non-profit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) concluded that every dollar Maryland ratepayers invested so far in EmPOWER will return $1.81 in benefits. If the typical residential utility customer pays $6 monthly, that customer earns a nearly $11 monthly return.
This is no feel-good government program. It saves money and power for utility customers. By reducing aggregate consumer demand for electricity, EmPOWER investments keep electric rates down for everyone. Not surprisingly, four out of five Marylanders support expanding rebates that encourage energy efficiency in our homes, apartments and workplaces.
The commission’s decision will also impact our economy. Home energy auditors, HVAC specialists, insulation installers and many other trade specialists perform upgrades at homes and businesses. ACEEE also concluded that if the commission retains the 2 percent target, EmPOWER Maryland will create an estimated 68,000 jobs. Equally important, these won’t be outsourced jobs. If you need new a home energy audit or new insulation installed or new HVAC systems, you need a local professional.
As chair of the Maryland Building Performance Association and president of a home energy auditing company, I see how EmPOWER saves utility customers money and energy every day. Newer energy efficiency technologies and approaches are also enhancing comfort and indoor air quality with impressive results. Quite literally, energy efficiency improves lives.
By eliminating wasteful energy consumption, we can also improve public health. The energy savings from EmPOWER have cut nearly 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, over 34 million pounds of nitrogen oxides, and nearly 78 million pounds of sulfur dioxide.
Government initiatives that actually save Marylanders money don’t come around often. When they do, policymakers should embrace them and ensure they remain successful. The Public Service Commission can act in the best interest of Maryland’s electricity customers, economy and environment by supporting EmPOWER Maryland’s energy conservation targets this all.
Brian Toll is chair of the Maryland Building Performance Association, a non-profit trade association serving Maryland’s building performance contractors. He is also founder & President of ecobeco, a Rockville-based home remodeling company.