Two Maryland departments that have taken their share of knocks got some good news Thursday as they were among the big winners in a competition between agencies over which are doing the best job of conserving energy.
Underscoring his personal interest in the effort, Gov. Martin O'Malley turned out to present the first Maryland Energy Cup to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for the best performance in total energy reduction. According to the administration, the department has cut energy consumption by 47 percent since 2008 -- aided by an efficiency project at Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville that yielded an 80 percent cut in the facility's use of natural gas.
Also recognized was the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services for being the most improved agency -- having jumped from ninth place to second place in energy use reduction since 2008 with a 41 percent cut. The State Highway Administration and Maryland Military Department also received awards.
The health and public safety departments have both dealt with adverse publicity over the past year. The health agency has been at the center of the troubled rollout of Maryland's health care insurance exchange, while the public safety agency has struggled with a correctional officer corruption scandal at the Baltimore detention center.
O'Malley alluded to the health exchange's web site problems as he highlighted the role of information technology in achieving energy use reduction across state government.
"For all of the hoopla about IT contracts going bad, the ones that work never make the papers," he told participants in the awards ceremony in Annapolis.
The governor pointed to an 11 percent reduction in energy consumption since 2008 and said the state is on track to reach his administration's goal of a 15 percent cut by 2015. O'Malley said that the state is saving $21 million a year in energy costs through 21 agree.
An important factor was the use of systems compatible across agencies to identify the agencies that are getting the best results, the governor said.
"We're all part of the grid," he said.