Md. Utilities Fall Short on Energy Goals, Report Says


UNIVERSITY PARK (April 15, 2010)—Sarah Elder is saving about $300 a month on electricity by going green.

Elder's one-story, University Park rambler was costing her more than $400 a month for electricity. By upgrading her home through various energy-efficiency installations, Elder's bill is now around $100 a month.

"For a little, small investment, you get reimbursed in no time," she said. The investment cost between $4,000 to $5,000 and took about three to four days to complete.

Elder's home renovations are part of a larger movement. In 2008, the state legislature passed the EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act, which set a statewide goal to reduce power consumption by 15 percent by 2015.

But utility companies aren't doing enough to meet the goals set under the EmPOWER Act, according to a report released Wednesday by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group. The group's news conference took place outside Elder's home.

Under EmPOWER, utility companies are supposed to enact programs to achieve two-thirds of the goals laid out in the legislation, while state programs are supposed to take care of the rest. But the state's electric utilities are off the path set by the legislation, the report said.

"While there are some good energy efficiency programs that are getting up and running, the state's utilities are far behind and not on track to hit their goals," MaryPIRG's consumer advocate Fiedling Huseth said at the news conference.

Because of the "failure" of the utilities to propose adequate energy-efficiency programs, the report said, Maryland is on track to fall roughly 25 percent short of the energy savings promised.

The report highlighted different Maryland utility companies, like Baltimore Gas and Electric, the state's largest utility. The Baltimore utility company is expected to achieve 52 percent of the EmPOWER Maryland goal by 2011 and 63 percent of the goal by 2015, the report said.

BGE has implemented its programs more quickly than other utilities, but is still behind schedule, the report said.

Mark Case, the company's senior vice president of strategy and regulatory affairs, said that EmPOWER contains the most aggressive goals in the country and that the levels are about double what the other states are doing.

Without "something new on the horizon," such as Smart Grid, the goals will be hard to achieve, he said.

Case also said that in terms of the company's new residential programs, such as being able to purchase discounted energy efficient lights and appliances, "We're really quite proud of the results we achieved there."

Pepco's Media Relations Manager Bob Hainey issued a statement in response to the MaryPIRG report touting the company's progress in instituting a "suite of cost-effective EMPOWER Maryland energy efficiency and conservation programs and demand reduction programs." The company is also beginning a "smart metering" program with federal stimulus funds, which will give customers more information about their energy use, it said.

Energy efficiency lowers bills, as in Elder's case, and it also helps make the electric grid more reliable, creates good quality jobs and reduces pollution, the report said.

Meeting the EmPOWER Maryland goals could save consumers and businesses $861 million annually and add $8,000 new jobs in the state by 2015, the report said.

Under state law, public utilities will have to report their progress to the General Assembly next year.

One of the reasons for the shortfall is the lack of public education, Huseth said. That combined with initial costs can turn the public off to energy efficiency.

"The only way we're going to hit these goals," Huseth said, "is if the utilities educate the public about the programs they're offering and then offer the programs."

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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