When it comes to energy efficiency, the state of Maryland is gaining some attention. It was recognized as the 10th most efficient state in the U.S. by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy this month, jumping six spots from last year in the group's annual ranking.
Maryland officials credit the 2008 Empower Maryland Act for the move. The law requires utilities to help consumers save energy, and set a goal of reducing the state's peak demand and overall energy consumption by 15 percent by 2015. Malcolm Woolf, the director of the Maryland's Energy Administration, talked with WAMU environment reporter Sabri Ben-Achour about how far Maryland has come, and what's still to be done.
On how the bill has already made a difference: "We all remember the heat wave we had back in July or August. Many of our neighboring states had blackouts," Woolf says. "In Maryland, because we invested in peak demand programs, where people could voluntarily sign up to cycle off their air conditioning for a few hours, we shed 600 megawatts -- that's three power plants worth -- that we didn't need, and by doing so we kept the lights on and we saved the state millions of dollars."
As to how those investments translate to savings: "In Maryland, you can can get 50 percent off if do you a home assessment and implement the measures, 35 percent from the Maryland Energy Association, 15 percent from the utilities," Woolf says. But funding from a previous federal stimulus package helps keep those programs going. At the end of the year, those funds are expected to run out.
After that: "None of these programs are funded through the General Assembly, directly through taxes," he says. "Instead they are either funded through utility surcharges … or through the regional greenhouse initiative."
On whether there are real monetary benefits to efficiency: "It creates a workforce," Woolf says. "You can't outsource overseas someone to blow insulation into your home or to fix air leaks. It creates a homegrown workforce that actually reduces bills, increases productivity, and keeps money in the state."