New Report Shows Efficiency Programs Lower Utility Bills

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Homeowner, contractor demonstrate improvements to home that would become more common in Maryland with passage of energy efficiency legislation.

Energy efficiency programs reduce costs to consumers and slow rising energy prices according to a new report released today by Maryland PIRG. The report, Energy Saved, Dollars Earned: Real-World Examples of How Energy Efficiency Can Benefit Maryland Consumers, shows how other states have used energy efficiency programs to delay the need to build new power plants, improve reliability, create jobs, and strengthen the economy for society as a whole.

“Energy efficiency programs can help homeowners and small businesses tap into vast potential energy savings,” said Johanna Neumann, state director for Maryland PIRG. “By passing the governor’s energy efficiency legislation, lawmakers will deliver long-term savings on consumers’ energy bills and strengthen the local economy.”

The report profiles specific energy efficiency programs in other states and shows how they benefit homeowners, businesses and industry. For example, through public education and targeted rebates, New York encourages homeowners to replace outdated and inefficient appliances with energy-saving models. Participating families save an average of $600 per year in energy costs. Programs in Pennsylvania help low-income customers reduce their energy bills through free home energy audits and weatherization. In 2004, the program saved the average low-income family in Pennsylvania about $300 per year, or 2 percent of their annual income.

Crofton residents Lois and Jim Nichols recently took steps to make their home more energy efficient. The Nichols’ replaced appliances and light bulbs with more efficient models, injected insulation into their attic, replaced their heat pump, and more.

“We have been gradually making improvements over the last year or so in order to reduce our carbon footprint and contribution to climate change, as well as to lower our energy bills,” said Lois Nichols, a retired educator. “We have already noticed some savings and expect the insulation work to produce substantial savings on our monthly energy bills. We would hope that utility companies and state and federal government agencies would better support wise energy policies through rebates, tax breaks and other incentives to help people with the initial costs associated with energy-saving improvements.”

Maryland PIRG’s report found that efficiency programs create jobs and grow the economy. For example, New York’s Energy Smart programs have created 4,200 jobs since 2002, and Wisconsin’s Focus on Energy program is expected to increase disposable income for Wisconsin residents by more than $4 billion over 25 years.

“Green collar jobs are the next big boom,” said Bob Logston, a Green Energy Auditor with H.E.L.P. (or Home Energy Loss Professionals), and an energy efficiency contractor for more than 20 years. “Companies like mine are hiring and we need skilled laborers who can do the work to help homes and businesses use energy more wisely. With this new industry comes job creation.”

Energy efficiency investments are extremely cost effective. For example, every dollar spent on efficiency in Connecticut yields about $4 in consumer savings over time. Efficiency resources also cost less than new energy facilities or new power lines. In 2005, efficiency programs in Wisconsin saved electricity for 3 cents per kWh and natural gas for 18 cents per therm—60 to 80 percent less than average retail prices.

“The least expensive kilowatt of energy is the one not needed,” said Maryland Energy Administration Assistant Director Walt Auburn.

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