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Md. ninth on energy efficiency, may fall short of goal

Laws and LegislationEnergy SavingElectricity Production and DistributionBaltimore Gas and Electric Co.Barack Obama

Maryland retained its ninth-best ranking on a national comparison of states' energy efficiency efforts, but a separate report also out Wednesday said Maryland must up the ante if it doesn't want to fall short of its own goals.

The state score card, released by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, rated states on efforts to drive down energy use — and customers' costs — through utility programs, energy codes for buildings and other efforts. The council praised Maryland for having "a wide variety of policies that encourage energy efficiency."

But the council said utility programs will need to ramp up if the state wants to meet its own targets for energy savings. That's the point the Maryland Public Interest Research Group makes in its separate report, "Stepping Up to Bigger Savings," which says the state is not on pace to meet a goal of reducing electricity use per capita by 15 percent from 2007 levels. The deadline is 2015.

Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. is the farthest from its 2015 target among the state's five largest electric utilities, with 38 percent of the goal achieved through last year, Maryland PIRG said.

The five-year-old EmPOWER Maryland program is saving consumers about $140 million in annual electricity costs, but "we're also losing out because we're not fully implementing the program," said Emily Scarr, Maryland PIRG's director.

Scarr said Maryland's Public Service Commission focuses on "the low-hanging fruit" — incentives that get the most bang for the buck, such as rebates for people swapping old appliances for more efficient new ones. Other options are required to pick up the pace, she said.

Mark Case, BGE's vice president of strategy and regulatory affairs, said by email that the report doesn't account for statewide improvements this year. He also contended that the targets set for each utility aren't even close to proportionate based on customer numbers, making the comparisons unfair.

"BGE has consistently been the highest performing utility in the state as it relates to both energy efficiency and demand response," he wrote.

Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, said the state is on track to exceed one usage goal — a 15 percent reduction in electricity demand on the hottest days of the year — and is making changes to try to meet the per-capita reduction target.

Hopper said Maryland has made significant process since 2007, when it ranked 20th on the state-by-state score card.

"There's obviously opportunities for us to improve, and I would be the first to say that, but I think it identifies the good choices that we've made," she said.

The U.S. Department of Energy has pitched efficiency as a nonpartisan issue, saving residents and businesses money while also reducing the emissions that contribute to environmental problems.

"President Obama has made very clear that efficiency is essential to his climate action plan," Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said on a conference call about the state score card.

Annie Downs, lead author for the council's state score card, said the group is seeing a rising tide of efficiency across the country. It's "cleaner, cheaper and quicker" than building new power plants and other infrastructure to keep up with demand, she said.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jsmithhopkins

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Laws and LegislationEnergy SavingElectricity Production and DistributionBaltimore Gas and Electric Co.Barack Obama
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