Chalk up a big win for the Free State! A first-of-its-kind, just-released American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) study shows that the state’s energy efficiency investment portfolio, dubbed EmPOWER Maryland, will save us $4 billion on our electricity bills. These savings accrue thanks to programs delivering solid, tested energy efficiency measures (e.g., more efficient heating and cooling technology, better insulation, less wasteful light bulbs, etc.).
All told the return on investment is almost two dollars for every one dollar invested, as you can see in the summary table below.
While the numbers are impressive, the stories behind them are even better.
Take Maryland’s treasured National Football League team, the Baltimore Ravens. Their stadium is one of the most energy efficient and is first in the nation to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Gold (LEED-Gold) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It cleared that high bar thanks in part to investments from EmPOWER Maryland, as former Raven and current Vice President at the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative Femi Ayanbadejo explained in remarks in front of the stadium yesterday (for media coverage of the event click here and here).
EmPOWER Maryland also helped Towson University slash energy waste, as its Energy Manager Stephen Kolb summarized at the event:
- We cut total annual electrical consumption by over 10.5 million kWh
- This equated to an annual CO2 emissions reduction of over 7,300 Metric Tons
- And an annual energy savings of over $1.1 million
- Total campus energy consumption reduction of 18% since 2010 (per sq.ft.)
Those are impressive numbers, and as he further explained it is something students actually help shape by identifying opportunities and helping to monitor and evaluate energy savings. Further, he noted that Towson is a rapidly growing suburb north of Baltimore which risks overburdening the grid and the reduced energy demand thanks to the improvements delivered by EmPOWER Maryland helps keep the lights on. The state’s largest utility – BGE – has also noted repeatedly that EmPOWER Maryland has helped avoid brownouts and blackouts by ensuring system reliability.
The residential programs run by Maryland’s Department of Housing and Community Development are a crucially important component of the EmPOWER Maryland portfolio. These programs boost the energy efficiency of affordable homes, both single family and multifamily (e.g., apartment buildings). Our national Energy Efficiency for All partnership project focusses on expansion of and improvements in the departments Multifamily Energy Efficiency and Housing Affordability program. These investments are especially important, and especially cost-effective from a societal perspective. Energy costs weigh heavily on affordable housing, and they are economically regressive when also passed on to the low-income households that can least afford the burden on their budgets (see another ACEEE report on this topic here). And here there is room for improvement, as shown by the sawtooth (as opposed to a more desirable upwards staircase) graph showing participation in the low-income programs since EmPOWER Maryland was launched.
As with big commercial customers such as the Ravens and Towson University, the stories underpinning these numbers are encouraging. Trisha Miller, Sustainability Director for affordable housing developer and investor Wishrock Group, explained the benefits EmPOWER Maryland delivers to low-income Marylanders.
As she summed up:
“Because of the EmPOWER program, we were able to leverage over $1.5 million in financing for cost-effective energy improvements, such as high efficiency HVAC equipment, water heaters, lighting, and insulation.
EmPOWER has proven critical to help us improve the energy efficiency of these affordable multifamily properties. The program funded efficiency improvements that are expected to reduce utility bills by as much as 20% per year. Without EmPOWER, the upfront costs of making these upgrades can be prohibitive across our affordable housing industry.”
The simple truth is that ACEEE finds that the EmPOWER Maryland portfolio of investments is a winner. It helps keep the lights on throughout the state, it benefits big employers and it delivers much needed energy cost savings to those who can least afford high utility bills. The Public Service Commission should stick with this winning game plan in 2017 and beyond so Maryland can score more wins for consumers and remain a national champion of energy efficiency.