Maryland is falling significantly short of meeting its energy efficiency goals, according to a statewide consumer advocacy group.
While residents can pay less for electricity by leaving their power utility for an alternative retail electric supplier, the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) Foundation said state officials and regulators aren’t doing enough to help residents decrease the amount of electricity they actually use.
During his first term, Gov. Martin O’Malley captained The Empower Maryland Energy Efficiency Act of 2008, which set a goal of reducing per capita energy use in the state by 15 percent by 2015. The act called for the state’s five largest power utilities to implement programs that would reduce customers’ energy use by 10 percent. New energy efficiency standards for appliances and participation in federal programs would make up the remaining five percent.
However, according to a new PIRG report, “Falling Behind on Energy Efficiency: Maryland Risks Missing Its Energy Savings Goals,” after three years, the state doesn’t look like it’s going to meet even half its goal. Four of the five largest residential energy utilities are on track to meet an average of just 46 percent of the state’s energy efficiency target.
The one utility projected to meet the state’s goal, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. (BGE), is on track to come in only slightly higher, at 48 percent.
Power Utility Programs Are Saving Energy, Just Not as Much as They Should
The report blames the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), an independent agency headed by O’Malley appointees and the state’s top energy regulator, for doing a poor job of managing the development of energy efficiency programs by the utilities. According to the report, PSC delayed implementation of the Empower Maryland Act for a year, failed to provide clear program guidelines, failed to ensure that power utilities launched efficiency programs in a timely manner after they were approved and failed to develop efficient approval processes. Even now — three years later — the agency has yet to create a system for the timely evaluation of energy efficiency programs by the utilities.
Although the state might not meet its energy-saving goals, Marylanders are still benefitting from the initiative, said O’Malley spokesman Shaun Adamec. Adamec cited data from the PIRG report that estimated 150,000 consumers will spend $60 million less on electricity per year as a result of state-managed energy conservation programs with power utilities and $900 million less over the life of the investments.
“The good news is that energy efficiency programs in Maryland have already delivered tremendous energy savings,” said Maryland PIRG Foundation State Director Johanna Neumann in a statement. “The bad news is that the Public Service Commission’s mismanagement has set customers back from reaping even greater benefits.”
So far, utilities have offered discounts for compact fluorescent light bulbs and energy-efficient appliances, as well as rebates for heating and cooling system upgrades and other home energy efficiency improvements.
“Report: Maryland Falling Short on Energy-Saving Goals,” The Baltimore Sun, March 30, 2011.
“Maryland Lagging on Energy Efficiency Goals,” Maryland PIRG Foundation press release, March 30, 2011.
Maryland PIRG Foundation report, “Falling Behind on Energy Efficiency: Maryland Risks Missing Its Energy Savings Goals,” March 2011.