Energy efficiency (EE) is simply using less energy to achieve the same results. For example, an energy-efficient light bulb can produce the same amount of light as a non-efficient bulb, but it uses a fraction of the electricity to do so. An energy-efficient house can be just as warm in the winter or just as cool in the summer as a typical house, but it uses less energy to achieve those results.
Getting serious about clean energy also means getting serious about energy efficiency.
- EE reduces peak demand requirements, which lowers the risk of brownouts and power outages during very hot or cold days.
- EE reduces overall system demand, which lowers power prices and provides greater flexibility in utilizing all power sources (including renewables) when and where they are needed or appropriate
- EE helps current power systems work better with more reliability, power quality and efficiency
- EE reduces the environmental impact of electricity generation, transmission, and distribution.
There are many technologies that improve energy efficiency. Here are just a few:
- Residential and Commercial Building Shell Upgrades – Building shell improvements such as air sealing and insulation are important, cost-effective ways to reduce energy use and improve comfort.
- Lighting and Household Appliances – Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs and light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs use significantly less electricity than traditional light bulbs. New ENERGY STAR® appliances use less energy and water.
- HVAC – Geothermal heat pump systems are viable in just about any location in the state and can provide a consistent, reliable, and largely clean source of energy for residents. Technology continues to advance in air source heat pumps and system controls, making systems more efficient.
EmPOWER Maryland, which is overseen by the PSC, is the state’s signature program to promote energy efficiency. The 2008 EmPOWER Maryland Act set a goal for the state to reduce energy use by 15% and reduce peak demand per capita by 15% by 2015 (based on 2007 levels) through energy efficiency programs. The programs are funded through ratepayer surcharges, and they must be cost effective for ratepayers in aggregate, meaning that ratepayers must receive more savings benefits than the fees they pay. Residential ratepayers only pay the residential surcharge, and commercial ratepayers only pay the commercial surcharge. These monies do not mix.
Within EmPOWER Maryland, programs are run through each of the four largest investor-owned state utilities (BGE, Pepco, Delmarva Power, and Potomac Edison) and SMECO. Detailed information about these programs is available at the PSC website, under case numbers 9153–9157. In 2015, Washington Gas started offering EmPower Programs under case number 9362. These programs can be categorized as either residential or commercial programs.
Residential Energy Efficiency in Maryland
The most popular residential programs are the following:
Lighting and Appliance Rebates – High-efficiency CFL and LED bulbs are discounted at the point of sale to encourage customers to buy these bulbs instead of standard incandescent bulbs or even the new hybrid halogen bulbs. Further, ENERGY STAR®–rated appliances such as refrigerators or clothes washers have mail-in rebates to encourage people to buy the higher-efficiency equipment.
HVAC Upgrades – Customers who replace their air conditioner, furnace, or other HVAC equipment can obtain rebates for buying higher-efficiency appliances. Lists of qualifying models are based on ENERGY STAR® ratings or Consortium of Energy Efficiency (CEE) ratings.
Quick Home Energy Check-Up (QHEC) – A QHEC is a brief energy assessment for residential ratepayers that is provided at no cost. It also includes free CFLs, smart power strips, low-flow shower heads, and other items. A QHEC is positioned as the first step for many residents to learn about their homes and how they can participate in EmPOWER Maryland programs.
Home Energy Audits – A home energy audit or assessment is a comprehensive investigation of a home’s energy usage. It looks at the entire building structure and all its energy uses, which typically takes several hours. A home energy audit is a necessary step for a resident to access the Home Performance rebate program. To encourage participation, energy audits are subsidized. Customers typically pay $100 for a service that would otherwise cost about $400.
Home Performance – Homeowners who make significant improvements to their home’s building envelope (the physical barrier between the conditioned and unconditioned space) or who add insulation are eligible to receive rebates. In 2015, these rebates were increased to up to $2,500 per household. These improvements permanently enhance the comfort of homes, which enables homeowners to run heating and cooling equipment less frequently.
Behavior-Based Marketing – Utilities are using behavior-based messaging to convince customers to use less energy. This messaging, which is sent directly to consumers by mail or e-mail, explains how consumers’ energy use compares to their neighbors’ use and provides tips for using less energy. Research has shown that this type of “peer pressure” is effective in changing behavior.
Maryland Home Energy Loan Program (MHELP) – MHELP is run by MCEC in partnership with MEA and support from the U.S. Department of Energy. Its aim is to expand access to energy efficiency upgrades by providing low-cost loans to homeowners. The MHELP program is almost out of funding. Efforts are underway to assess alternatives to MHELP both within and outside of EmPOWER Maryland–funded programs.
EFFICIENT ENERGY DISTRIBUTION
The "grid" often sounds like a vast interconnected system of power supply nodes, something like a world wide web of electricity that’s always there and able to supply power.
Not necessarily so.
The grid is more like a broadcast network rather than an on-demand system. Energy is produced at a central station and sent out to all customers whether they need it or not – and it’s not so much a grid as a web. Grids are sliced and diced differently depending on where you live, so your grid isn’t necessarily connected to or compatible with others.
The notion of a smart grid – or an interconnected distributed energy system –is a recent innovation. This concept is built on local generators that adjust to meet the peak demand of local lines and even just particular customers. This makes it possible to operate a network of distributed generators that provide power as needed.
Some envision that these technologies will evolve to like the personal computer, reaching the point where end users will be able to buy and operate their own electrical power systems from an interconnected grid of micro-generators.
ENERGY EFFICIENT TECHNOLOGIES IN MARYLAND
With significant business communities of established and emerging companies in fields such as information security, modeling and simulation, IT products and services, communications, and energy, Maryland has the resources to capitalize on innovation.
Maryland has a high concentration of key partners, researchers, and customers. Major contractors and engineering firms are located in and around Maryland and the Metro DC area – Lockheed Martin, Siemens, Northrup Grumman, and SAIC – as well as key federal agencies and facilities like the National Security Agency (NSA), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Energy.
Maryland’s well-educated and high-tech workforce is positioned and ready to meet the challenges of developing new technology.
- Second among U.S. states in percentage of professional and technical workers (25.4%) in the workforce
- Second among the states in percentage of population 25 and older with a bachelor's degree higher (35.2%)
- More than 100,000 workers in Maryland support the design, manufacturing, and service sectors of the communications industry
Maryland is a research and development powerhouse—ranking second nationally in R&D funding from the federal government.
Federal, academic, and private institutions conduct research at leading facilities like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab, the University System of Maryland, the National Security Agency, and more.