Maryland and the Electron-Hungry Mob

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By Elisa Wood

Governments remain in power as long as the people have enough food, or so the old adage goes. But in today’s appliance-driven society, political longevity may depend as much on giving us our daily share of electrons.

So it is little surprise that government leaders in Maryland are looking hard for ways to ward off a possible power shortage. Without quick action, the state could face blackouts in three years. Thus, energy efficiency is a big topic of conversation.

Governor Martin O’Malley wants to reduce electric demand 15% by 2015 through efficiency measures, and state lawmakers appear ready to help out.

“If we are concerned about rising electricity rates, the increasing possibility of power brownouts and the growing threat to our climate from power plant emissions, then the solution we must embrace now is energy efficiency,” said Delegate Bill Bronrott at a Feb. 14 news conference in Annapolis with key state policymakers and representatives from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).

Should this pro-efficiency sentiment hold, Maryland could become fertile territory for energy efficiency businesses. How fertile? An ACEEE report identified 22,000 GWh of potential energy savings, which could produce 12,000 new “green collar” jobs – about as many jobs as the state would gain by building 100 new manufacturing plants. These jobs account for $780 million in wages – enough to create a range of business opportunities for efficiency technologies.

The ACEEE recommends that Maryland enact an energy efficiency portfolio standard – an approach being eyed in many states. The standard would require a 1.8% annual reduction in Maryland’s energy use – not through consumer sacrifice, but through use of high performance technologies: efficient lighting, computers, air conditioners, factory motors and other equipment that needs less energy to achieve the same result as the energy guzzling models.

The program could rescue Maryland from its near bottom ranking (47) for energy efficiency spending among the states. To put that in perspective, Maryland spends $0.01 per capita on energy efficiency, while the top ten states spend about $10 per capita.

ACEEE’s proposal requires an upfront investment, but consumers eventually see substantial savings. For every $1 invested in energy efficiency, electric ratepayers will save $4, according to the report.

If this plan works, the electrons keep flowing, the population remains happy, and a few politicians just might save their jobs.

Elisa Wood is a writer who specializes in energy. Subscribe to her free Energy Efficiency Markets Newsletter by visiting

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.


  1. Maryland has the opportunity to follow the lead set by NYSERDA in New York to invest in an aggressive Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program. Contractors in New York have achieved enormous energy and greenhouse gas emissions savings by upgrading the performance of their customers’ homes. The special “Climate Change” issue of Home Energy magazine ( features an article I wrote on the impact of the NYSERDA program. It is entitled, “Contractors Aggegate Carbon Savings.” The U.S. Energy Information Agency states that residential homes consume 36% of total electricity production and are responsible for over 21% of greenhouse gas production nationwide. On its web site, Pepco states that 54 % of its power production in 2006 was derived from coal and that 1,243 pounds of carbon dioxide are emitted per megawatt hour of electricity generated.

    A brief synopsis of my article follows:

    Contractors accredited by the Building Performance Institute (BPI) offer utilities and state conservation programs huge opportunities to verify savings not only in energy usage in existing homes, but also in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That’s because the testing in and testing out procedures that BPI Accredited contractors conduct at every home performance job can be used to calculate and document carbon and other GHG emissions savings.

    In New York State, BPI Accredited contractors participating in the Home Performance with Energy Star (HPwES) program have been racking up all types of savings—beginning with completing 16,734 home performance jobs through September 2007. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which administers HPwES in New York, regularly undergoes an extensive evaluation of program savings—and the most recent results are noteworthy indeed. In addition to saving on average over 970 kilowatt-hours per home per year, the program has saved on average an impressive 34.6 million British thermal units of natural gas and 5.7 million British thermal units of oil per home per year. How can these savings be translated into a commodity that could be traded or sold? NYSERDA has verified that over 50,500 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) have been saved through the HPwES program to date. That’s an average of 3 tons of CO2 per house. On average, homes in New York that have received home performance contracting work save 0.5 tons of CO2 each year in avoided electrical consumption, 2 tons of CO2 in avoided natural gas consumption, and 0.5 tons of CO2 in avoided oil consumption.