Progress on Energy Efficiency in 2018, But Work Remains

Advocates for energy efficiency and affordable housing received encouraging news at the end of 2018, compliments of the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC).

The PSC issued an important order analyzing efforts made by Maryland’s six largest electric and gas utilities and the Department of Housing & Community Development under EmPOWER Maryland, the state’s signature energy efficiency program. Specific to low-income Marylanders, the PSC noted that measures taken by the utilities and DHCD to improve energy efficiency in low-income households are “positive, however, more can be done.”

We agree. Utilities have taken encouraging steps to improve energy efficiency for vulnerable Marylanders, such as partnering with food banks and donating millions of LED lightbulbs. DHCD, too, has improved its collaboration with a team of stakeholders known as the Low-Income Work Group to streamline and improve its energy efficiency programs.

However, considerable work remains to assist all of Maryland’s low-income residents. Under current Maryland law it would take 109 years to provide energy efficient upgrades to all eligible low-income residents in Maryland. The recently-released APPRISE report identified roughly 450,000 low-income households in Maryland, with only nine percent of them having received weatherization services through DHCD’s EmPOWER Maryland program or federal programs. Clearly, we all have work to do.

The PSC has required that utilities and DHCD work with the Low-Income Work Group to improve their low-income energy efficiency strategy. Energy Efficient Maryland looks forward to joining this effort, which includes the following tasks:

  • Develop efficient and effective means by which DHCD and the utilities can cross-market low-income programs to increase participation rates and energy savings;

  • Investigate the best means by which to clearly link savings, cost, and participation data to low-income participants;

  • Develop an appropriate format for utilities to track and report as part of their semi-annual filings the savings, cost, and participation data associated with low-income measures performed by the utilities; and

  • Develop and propose low-income energy savings goals pertaining to low-income measures performed by utilities;

We commend Maryland’s largest utilities and DHCD for their willingness to undertake incremental improvements to low-income energy efficiency in 2018. We hope 2019 proves to be a year of even bigger progress on behalf of the 450,000 Maryland households in real need of assistance.

Campfire Communications