A state program that subsidizes investments in energy efficiency has saved utility customers $1.8 billion on their electricity bills by helping them reduce power usage and preventing the need for new power plants to be built, according to a nonprofit's research report released Wednesday.
Utilities including Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. and their customers have spent $1.3 billion on the EmPOWER Maryland program since it was launched in 2008 — money that has paid for efficient appliances, home energy checkups, rebates and bill credits for reducing electricity usage.
The utilities pay for their part using a surcharge on customer bills, about $5 per month for the average BGE residential customer.
For every dollar spent, the state has benefited $1.81 through reduced energy usage and energy prices, according to a study by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit research group that promotes energy efficiency.
The report comes as the Maryland Public Service Commission and Gov. Larry Hogan scrutinize the program and its cost to electricity ratepayers. The administration opposes any increases to the fees utilities charge customers for the program.
"We just wanted to highlight how effective the policy has been and detail some of the benefits the programs have brought to the state," said Brendon Baatz, utilities policy manager for the council and co-author of the report.
The report is based on information in annual reports on utility activities and evaluations of energy savings filed with the Maryland Public Service Commission. The study was reviewed by the utilities and commission staff before being released, though the report notes that does not mean they endorsed it, Baatz said.
Included in $2.4 billion in benefits the report found were energy savings of 51 million megawatt hours, equivalent to the electricity usage of 850,000 homes over five years; nearly 19 million tons in avoided carbon dioxide emissions; a reduction in energy demand that was equal to four large power plants in 2015; and, eventually, $4.1 billion in customer bill savings as the investments pay off over time.
The EmPOWER Act, legislation that created the program in 2008, required utilities reduce per capita electricity consumption by 10 percent by 2015.
The law did not require that the program go forward after meeting its goal in 2015. So far, the commission has continued to support it and ask utilities to lay out plans for more energy efficiency investments.