Residential and business electric customers will save more than $4 billion over the life of energy efficiency improvements made through the EmPower Maryland program; according to results of a study (Research Report U1701) released on January 12 by the nonprofit research group, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).
The report, Maryland Benefits: Examining the Results of EmPower Maryland through 2015, reveals that the efficiency program, started in 2008 – and paid for by the utility and its customers in the amount of $1.3 billion to date – has produced significant benefits, including:
- More than $4 billion in savings in total customer bills over the life of the improvements made between 2008 and 2015;
- Every dollar spent on the program has saved $1.81 in costs customers see on their electricity bills; and
- Expected lifetime energy savings under the plan will be more than 51 million mWh, equivalent to the electricity used by 850,000 residential customers over five years.
State utilities pay for their part of the program using a surcharge on customer bills – about $5 per month for the average BGE residential customer – according to a January 11 report by The Baltimore Sun.
The first phase of EmPower Maryland aimed to reduce per capita electricity usage by 10 percent and peak electricity demand by 15 percent by 2015.
The Maryland Public Service Commission, in its annual report to the General Assembly in 2015, concluded that state utilities achieved 99 percent of the per capita consumption goal and 100 percent of the per capita demand reduction goal.
However, the law passed in 2008 did not require that the program to go forward after meeting its goal in 2015, according to the Sun. So far, the commission has continued to support it and ask utilities to lay out plans for more energy efficiency investments.
“EmPower Maryland is an unqualified success story for the state,” said Brendon Baatz, study co-author and Utilities Policy manager at ACEEE.
Yet, despite its achievements, Baatz believes the program’s future is not guaranteed: “With Phase One of the program complete, Maryland regulators must now renew their support for EmPower Maryland so that consumers and businesses can continue to reap the benefits of lower utility bills and cleaner air.”
Some businesses also have a crucial stake in the program. “EmPower has proven critical for helping us improve the energy efficiency of our affordable multifamily properties, which lowers utility costs and provides healthy homes for our residents” said Trisha Miller, Sustainability director for affordable housing developer Wishrock. “At Windsor Valley Apartments [in Edgewood, Maryland], EmPower helped fund efficiency improvements that are expected to reduce utility bills by as much as 20 percent per year. Without EmPower, the upfront costs of making these upgrades can be prohibitive in the affordable housing industry.”
Due in part to the EmPower Maryland program, Maryland now ranks as the ninth most energy-efficient state in the nation, according to ACEEE.