EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Program expansion bill heard in MD House
MARYLAND -The House Economic Matters Committee approved major legislation to update and improve EmPOWER Maryland, the state’s energy efficiency program, a measure that will strengthen consumer protections and ensure the program supports the state’s efforts to reduce fossil fuel pollution.
“The purpose of empower is to make homes safer more energy efficient and lower people and so we want 80 percent of that program to take place in people’s homes,” said Committee Vice Chair Brain Crosby.
HB1035 would set yearly goals for greenhouse gas reduction and enables incentives for home electrification…
Updating the existing program that advocates say has had a big impact on Marylanders’ wallets.
“Over the last 15 years it has saved Marylanders about 4 billion dollars on their energy bills and reduced pollution generation in the equivalent of taking 2 million cars off the road,” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr.
Scarr tells 47ABC this bill updates those guidelines to be more efficient and to include gas for the first time while adding consumer protection against dramatic rate increases.
“We need to make sure the empower meets the state’s goals of bringing those climate emissions in our homes down to zero,” Scarr said.
And as those systems get more efficient, the bill would pass those savings onto customers, and incentivize consumers to get better appliances.
“When you are making that choice buying a new appliance a new stove or a new heater, the healthy choice can be the affordable choice so ensuring our energy efficiency program aligns with that goal is a priority of the environmental community,” Scarr said.
Scarr tells 47ABC that gas utilities have put in letters of opposition urging lawmakers to keep financing the program in a way that increases their profits.
The measure would remove some of the debt financings that allow the utilities to profit.
“This would make the bill fully funded by rate holders each year and eliminate that debt,” Scarr said, adding she believes more efficient machines would ultimately result in a revenue loss for utilities as power is able to go further.
She says that great efficiency and increasing quality of life for low-income Marylanders who have not been able to take advantage of the existing EmPower system is the bill’s focus.
“you can get access to a free or discounted energy audit in your home that the utilities run, they come in they tell you everything you can do, adding better weatherization- replacing windows, plus those rebates for when you do get new appliances,” Scarr said.
The measure has been special ordered for a vote for Tuesday of next week.