House Committee Approves Legislation to Strengthen EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Program – to Reduce Energy Use and Support State Climate Goals

Media Contacts

The House Economic Matters Committee today 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 committee-approved a heavily amended  bill (HB1035) that adds specific annual goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions and codifies critical consumer protections to smooth the transition, avoid rate hikes and ensure the program’s focus remains on in-home energy efficiency benefits. The bill will enable new incentives for Marylander homeowners and owners of large, multi-family housings to purchase electric appliances and home heating systems and to move away from fossil fuel appliances.  It also directs the Public Service Commission, which oversees the program, to establish performance standards for the utilities to hold them accountable to their goals.

“We thank Vice Chair Crosby for championing energy efficiency and consumer protections in HB1035. This legislation will help more Marylanders cut down on their energy use and save money each month,” said Emily Scarr, Director of Maryland PIRG. “By adding new incentives for efficient electric appliances that reduce pollution that harms our health and the plant, the bill will help Marylanders save more and pollute less.”

As amended, HB1035:

  • Sets yearly goals for greenhouse gas reduction and enables incentives for home electrification.
  • Protects consumers from dramatic rate increases and sets up performance standards for utilities.
  • Adds protections to ensure the program delivers direct benefits to ratepayers to improve home energy efficiency by setting an 80% behind the meter goal.
  • Sets performance targets to ensure low-income homeowners aren’t left behind when it comes to energy savings. 

EmPOWER has delivered important benefits to Marylanders since it was created in 2008. It has saved ratepayers more than $4 billion on energy bills and reduced Maryland’s greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 9.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of moving 2 million cars off the road. 

“This is a strong bill that is good for consumers and will help Maryland reduce its fossil fuel emissions,” said Josh Tulkin, Director of Sierra Club Maryland. “With this legislation, EmPOWER can help us achieve our critical climate goals as a state and help more Maryland households bring down their energy usage and bills.” 

The legislation comes at a critical time in the 15-year-old program as utility companies are submitting 3-year energy efficiency plans to the Public Service Commissions. The amended bill is supported by a broad coalition of faith leaders and organizations and consumer, public health and environmental groups

“This legislation helps people choose healthier, more efficient home heating and cooking options, protects our climate, and takes advantage of billions of dollars in new federal funds,” said Jonathan Lacock-Nisly, Director of Faithful Advocacy for Interfaith Power & Light (DC.MD.NoVA). “That’s why so many people of faith all across Maryland have spoken out in support of this bill and in support of strengthening the EmPOWER Maryland program.”

Advocates applauded the legislators who led in the effort to pass the bill and incorporate provisions from HB904 and HB169, including Economic Matters Vice Chair Brian Crosby, Chair C.T. Wilson, Del. Lily Qi, Del. Lorig Charkoudian and the entire Public Utilities Subcommittee.

A recent report from Maryland PIRG Foundation details EmPOWER’s track record and recommends key changes that would bring down consumers’ utility bills, increase energy efficiency, and reduce climate pollution.