The Maryland Senate has just one day left to pass a bill that would deliver greater energy savings for Marylanders through the EmPOWER program — the state’s energy efficiency and weatherization program. The bill would build on the success of the EmPOWER program by ensuring lower energy bills for low-wealth Marylanders, as well as greater public health and climate benefits that coincide with improved energy efficiency.
Maryland’s EmPOWER program works by providing Maryland homeowners with energy audits and subsequent rebates for lighting, appliances, and weatherization. It also provides businesses with discounts and incentives for energy-efficient upgrades.
Residential and commercial energy use in Maryland account for 46.5 percent of the total amount of energy consumed in the state. By reducing the amount of energy Marylanders consume, efficiency improvements help customers pay less on their utility bills. Over the past 15 years, Maryland EmPOWER has saved residents over $4 billion on their energy bills and delivered lifetime energy savings worth $12.7 billion.
With these savings come reduced fossil fuel consumption and reduced greenhouse gas emissions, combating climate change and reducing the negative health impacts of fossil fuels. Maryland produces 42.9 percent of its electricity from natural gas, oil, or coal. Since 2008, the EmPOWER program has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by at least 9.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equal to taking 2 million cars off the road for an entire year.
To date, however, the EmPOWER program has underdelivered for low-wealth Marylanders, which is why the state Senate needs to pass proposed legislation (HB 1035) to make sure that all Marylanders have the opportunity to choose more affordable all-electric heat pumps, induction stoves, and heat pump water heaters.
More specifically, HB 1035 (as amended) would:
- Set clear performance targets, climate benchmarks, incentives and penalties for utilities to ensure the program is reducing Maryland’s overall energy use and greenhouse gas emissions;
- Establish a multilingual community outreach specialist program to help low-income households access state and federal funds for energy efficiency and whole-home retrofits, including lead removal, mold remediation, asbestos removal, and building improvements; and
- Ensure that 80 percent of the energy savings associated with the program happen in the home, where ratepayers benefit most.
If passed, the bill will help people choose healthier, more affordable home heating and cooking options, protect our climate, and take advantage of billions of dollars in new federal funds. Importantly, these features also make energy efficiency upgrades especially valuable as part of a broader strategy to achieve Maryland’s climate goals in a way that is just and equitable, particularly for structurally marginalized communities.
The Maryland House of Delegates passed the legislation on April 5. The Maryland Senate has until tomorrow, April 11, to pass HB 1035.
If you are a Maryland resident, you can call on your legislators HERE to support HB 1035.
Banner image by Geoffrey.landis at English Wikipedia, used under Creative Commons license CC BY 3.0.