In Maryland, the Public Service Commission (PSC) has just moved to get one of the country’s most ambitious energy efficiency programs back on track. The EmPOWER Maryland Act, passed in 2008, requires the state’s five utilities to design and implement energy efficiency programs to drastically reduce per-capita electricity consumption by 2015. However, the program has failed to deliver anticipated savings due to poor performance by utilities and low expectations at the PSC . As a result, by 2010 it appeared that the state was likely to miss its energy savings goals by as much as 52 percent, according to this Frontier Group report. We explained other problems with implementation of EmPOWER Maryland here and here.
Now, in its most recent Order (see Order 84569 here), the PSC has taken several important steps to get Maryland back on track toward reaching its energy savings goals. Among these are:
- Requiring utilities to standardize their efficiency programs to improve consumer awareness of the programs and boost participation.
- Improving and clarifying their definition of “cost-effective” programs, which will help utilities design programs that will receive prompt approval.
- Requiring utilities to promptly implement programs that have already been approved.
- Directing utilities to work together to find solutions to the current shortfall between projected and actual electricity savings to date.
In addition, the PSC says that it will conduct further analysis whether to include the value of environmental benefits in its calculation of cost-effectiveness, a concept that the Commission has until now rejected out-of-hand. Including these benefits in its calculations is the only way to accurately measure the true merits of an efficiency program.
The PSC commissioners reiterate that they “take the EmPOWER goals seriously” and they should be applauded for their “renewed commitment to EmPOWER Maryland.”