March 10, 2017 – The Maryland House of Delegates approved a bill that would extend the state’s energy efficiency program, known as EmPOWER Maryland. The bill passed on a 92-46 vote, but the Senate has yet to vote on the measure.
Passed in 2008, the EmPOWER Act required utilities to reduce per capita electricity usage by 10 percent by 2015. The law didn’t require EmPOWER to continue past 2015 if the goal was met. The Maryland Public Service Commission has supported the program and has asked utilities to develop plans to invest more in energy efficiency.
Under the EmPower program, customers are currently charged a fee on their monthly utility bills and that money is used to: provide rebate and bill credits to reduce electricity use, purchase energy-efficient appliances, and perform home energy checkups.
Some lawmakers have voiced concerns, saying that the program is a burden, especially on poor households. “Sounds pretty good, until you realize people have to pay for it,” Said Herb McMillan, an Anne Arundel County Republican. However, the sponsor of the bill noted, “The program is working and is working well.” A recent report found that, for every $1 spent on EmPOWER, the state has saved $1.81 in reduced energy prices.
Advocates for clean energy praised the passage of the bill in the House. Daniel Bloom, of Advance Energy Economy, said, “The easiest way to save ratepayers money is to take advantage of programs like EmPOWER Maryland.”
In the past, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed legislation that would have increased the state’s renewable energy requirements. The Governor called the bill a “sunshine and wind tax.” Lawmakers overrode that veto this year. “We’re hoping Governor Hogan does not politicize the EmPOWER bill and make it partisan, as when he vetoed the RPS bill,” Bloom said.
More history of EmPOWER can be found in this ratepayer summary on the Clearinghouse website.