Maryland lawmakers give final OK to extension of energy efficiency program

Maryland lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to an extension of the state's EmPOWER energy efficiency program.

A coalition of businesses sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan urging him to sign the bill, which also has been championed by environmental advocates.

The House of Delegates and state Senate earlier had earlier approved versions of the EmPOWER bill by veto-proof margins.

The EmPOWER Act was first passed in 2008, requiring utilities to reduce per capita electricity use by 10 percent by 2015.

Under the program, utility customers are charged a fee on their monthly bills. The money is used for efficient appliances, home energy checkups, rebates and bill credits for reducing electricity use.

The law didn't require EmPOWER to continue past 2015 after meeting the energy savings goal. But the state's Public Service Commission has supported the program and asked utilities to lay out plans to invest more in energy efficiency. The bill puts the force of law behind the PSC's actions.

A report in January found that for every $1 spent in the program, the state has saved $1.81 through reduced energy prices.

A coalition of about two dozen companies —including MGM Resorts, Gaylord National and several energy companies — wrote that the EmPOWER program will help reduce electricity costs, benefiting both companies and consumers.

"A commitment to continuing EmPOWER Maryland would help give the business community the confidence to invest and grow," the companies wrote in their letter to the Republican governor.

Hogan's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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