This week NRDC and 47 other groups sent a letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan urging him to save energy by boosting efficiency of our homes and businesses through the successful and popular EmPOWER Maryland program as directed by our Public Service Commission last summer.
And in a related development this week, a group of advisers including yours truly get a briefing on the results of a summertime 2016 survey of Marylanders on energy and climate issues, performed by the Center for Climate Communication at George Mason University. I’m looking forward to learning about results, confident that they will echo what previous surveys have shown, namely that energy efficiency investments thanks to a state policy called EmPOWER Maryland are popular. In fact, the most recent survey by this institution found that more than 8 out of 10 Marylanders back EmPOWER’s “rebates to help people purchase energy-efficient lighting and appliances.”
And no wonder. Since its enactment in 2008, EmPOWER Maryland has saved a total of 5,394,086 Megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity and more than $4 billion on consumer energy bills. More than 2 million Marylanders have participated in one of EmPOWER’s programs. And thanks to our Public Service Commissioners, who have adopted new nationally famous policies that put us on a path to saving more energy every year, the program will pay bigger and bigger dividends to Marylanders like me for years to come.
That will ease the burden for low-income consumers who can least afford high energy bills. This is a big equity issue: While the average burden of energy costs is 3.5% of household income it’s more than twice as high in low-income homes. For these families, thanks to the Department of Housing and Community Development EmPOWER provides much-needed utility bill savings that can be spent instead on food, school supplies, and clothes. Furthermore, energy efficiency improvements in low-income residences have been shown to reduce stress, improve household health and safety, and increase property value.
Consequently the EmPOWER Maryland program has a lot of fans among businesses, housing organizations and conservation groups. And in a show of support this week NRDC and dozens of other groups made the points above and more in our letter to Governor Larry Hogan. The list of signers includes real estate developers, environmental advocates and groups that fight on behalf of low-income clients.
We’re a committed, diverse parade of supporters, and we look forward to Governor Hogan’s leadership as we continue and expand the EmPOWER Maryland program on the course set by Public Service Commissioners last summer.