EmPOWER is not a tax

How can Hogan complain about a small surcharge without mentioning its large benefits?

When I was a kid, my mom taught me that telling only one side of a story is deceitful. Yet, this is what Gov. Larry Hogan is doing when he calls the support of EmPOWER Maryland a tax ("Hogan steps back from clean-energy efforts, citing costs to consumers," June 7). Yes, the average ratepayer in Maryland pays about $5 per month for the energy efficiency programs offered through EmPOWER. But what Governor Hogan isn't saying is that residential customers can get easily back much more each year than the $60 annual surcharge! In fact, the free energy efficiency supplies installed during a no-cost Quick Energy Audit will save enough power annually to completely offset the surcharge and the total package of EmPOWER benefits to consumers is even bigger.

When you sign up for BGE's Peak Reward program, you get up to $100 per month for allowing the utility to cycle your home air-conditioner and/or water heater during brief periods of high energy demand. These demand-reduction programs also provide residents with a free programmable thermostat, yielding total 5-year savings of $1,490-to-$1,790. Not bad for a total surcharge of $300. Even residents who don't participate in Peak Rewards and don't take advantage of appliance rebates or buy the discounted lighting subsidized by EmPOWER save money. Because of EmPOWER programs, peak load (the exceptional amount of power needed on very hot or very cold days) has dropped by 15 percent in five years. This avoids the need to build new power plants and operate Maryland's dirtiest coal-fired power plants just to meet brief periods of high demand, saving Marylanders millions of dollars. And how about the health costs we've saved by not using 2 billion kilowatt hours of dirty power because of EmPOWER? Priceless.

So, Governor Hogan, don't pretend that the surcharge for EmPOWER Maryland is just another tax on Marylanders. Tell the whole story and let everyone know about the enormous economic, environmental and health benefits of this valuable program.

Dr. Sara Via, Ellicott City

The writer is a professor in the biology department at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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