Maryland Legislature Strengthens EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Program

Media Contacts
Emily Scarr

State Director, Maryland PIRG; Director, Stop Toxic PFAS Campaign, PIRG

Photo by Advance Maryland | Used by permission

A coalition of more than 50 consumer, environmental, health and housing groups applauded the General Assembly for passing legislation to strengthen the EmPOWER Maryland energy efficiency program. The measure, HB 864, was introduced by Delegate Brian Crosby and  would build on the program’s success in improving efficiency and lowering utility bills by setting new goals for reducing pollution that poses health risks and contributes to climate change. 

Since 2008, EmPOWER Maryland has created projected lifetime savings of over $12.7 billion in energy costs — from an investment of $3.5 billion in efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of at least 9.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equal to taking 2 million cars off the road for a year. The program provides Marylanders with free or discounted energy audits, weatherization, and efficient appliances and provides businesses with discounts and incentives for energy efficient upgrades.

Under the new law, the EmPOWER Maryland program will:

  • Continue incentives and rebates for home energy audits, weatherization support, appliance tune ups and new appliances.
  • Add new incentives to help Marylanders make the switch from inefficient and polluting home heating and appliances to clean, efficient electric appliances and heating.
  • Address concerns that utilities have profited excessively off of the program by reducing utility profits, lowering ratepayer costs and tying any future profits to performance.
  • Apply the same changes to the low income energy efficiency program run by the Department of Housing, helping low-income households take advantage of state and federal funds for energy efficiency, electrification  and whole-home retrofits, including benefits for families living in large multifamily buildings.
  • Reach more Marylanders by requiring Choptank electric cooperative to offer energy efficiency programs to its customers for the first time while the PSC considers adding them to the program.

Members of the coalition supporting the legislation expressed gratitude to Vice Chair Brian Crosby, the bill sponsor; the Moore Administration; and leaders in both chambers for their work on the bill, and  issued the following statements:

“Reducing energy waste in our homes means lower utility bills, warmer homes in winter, cooler homes in summer, and cleaner air for our families,” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr. “Investing in energy efficiency is one of the smartest investments our state can make in our clean energy future because the cleanest, safest, and most affordable energy is the energy we don’t use. In recent years, some utilities have schemed to make excessive profits off of EmPOWER, undermining our state’s energy efficiency goals. We applaud the General Assembly and Moore Administration for standing up for ratepayers by rejecting attempts by some electric and gas utilities to lock in future profits.

“With passage of this bill, we are one step closer to ensuring all Marylanders, especially low- to moderate-income families, have access to energy efficient upgrades to get off gas,” said Josh Tulkin, Director, Maryland Sierra Club. “By updating EmPOWER we are changing the lives of people, helping them lower their energy bills, reducing exposure to harmful emissions from gas appliances, and moving towards our climate goals.”

“We applaud the Maryland legislature for passing the EmPOWER reform bill that will ensure low- and moderate-income households, especially those in historically disinvested communities, are not left behind in the transition from fossil fuel appliances to electrification,” said Ruth Ann Norton, President and CEO of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative. “The health, economic, and social benefits of this improved EmPOWER program will be felt across the state and will enhance the quality of life for all Marylanders.”

 “Our breath connects us to each other and to all life. We believe our breath is for singing praise – not for breathing in soot and pollution,” said Andrea Orozco, Faithful Advocacy Lead, Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVa). “Today we commend the members of the General Assembly who have joined advocates and faith leaders in using their breath in support of a safer, cleaner, and more efficient future by passing HB 864.”

“EmPower reform is one of our highest priorities, because energy efficiency saves homeowners and businesses money, scales back how much new energy generation Maryland needs, and reduces climate pollution,” said Laurie McGilvray, Co-Chair Maryland Legislative Coalition Climate Justice Wing. “And thankfully, the Public Service Commission has directed an end to the utilities’ ability to rack up debt and profits on EmPOWER, putting an end to their attempts to keep accruing profits on a limitless credit card paid for by ratepayers. This bill goes a step further, rightsizing utility profits by lowering the interest rate on the existing debt at the right time: when the bills are due.”

 “Economic Action Maryland is thrilled at the success of HB864,” said Marceline White, executive director, Economic Action Maryland. “As a group anchored in economic justice, updating EmPOWER is important to us because it not only lowers rates for consumers, but brings clean energy into low-income households, reducing the risk of respiratory disease. All Marylanders deserve clean and low-cost energy!” 

“Passing EmPOWER reform to align Maryland’s successful energy efficiency program with our state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals is a key legislative action outlined in the Climate Pollution Reduction Plan, and an important step on the path to support an equitable transition to 100% clean energy,” said Rebecca Rehr, Director of Climate Policy & Justice, Maryland LCV.

“We celebrate the efforts by our partners to educate community members and legislators across the state on our EmPOWER program and we are grateful that the General Assembly has passed this bill,” said Larry Stafford, executive director of Progressive Maryland. “This is a positive step towards strengthening EmPOWER in the long term so that it can continue to improve the health and wellbeing of working-class Marylanders, their families, and the planet.”