Opinion: Why energy efficiency is good for Maryland’s economy

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By Michael Giangrandi

For MarylandReporter.com

When energy efficiency comes to mind, most of us think about our home or apartment and how upgrading our thermostat, for example, could save us hundreds of dollars. But that’s only part of the story here in Maryland.

Energy efficiency is also shaped by statewide policies. These policies not only determine how much we pay for electricity but also have an enormous impact on how many jobs our state has, how competitive our economy is, and whether employers move here or leave.

Good policies like the one that launched the state’s EmPOWER Maryland energy programs in 2008 can create thousands of jobs and save businesses billions of dollars, while also saving you money every time you pay your electricity bill.

These are among the reasons why the Maryland Alliance of Energy Contractors and the 400 plumbing, heating, and air conditioning contractors we represent are urging Gov. Larry Hogan to sign legislation that would extend EmPOWER Maryland for six more years.

Creates jobs

Let’s start with jobs. A recent, independent review found that if the governor signs HB 514 to extend EmPOWER Maryland, our state would create 68,000 net new jobs over the next decade.

To put that number in perspective, 68,000 jobs is the equivalent of employing every person living in the city of Frederick, the sixth largest city in our state. And these jobs aren’t dead-end positions. They generally pay well, include benefits, and can’t be outsourced, because they are in hands-on trades like heating, air conditioning, electricity, plumbing and construction.

Only someone working locally can help you upgrade your heat pump or swap-out your dryer.

But what about the cost to consumers? Some have argued that if we continue programs to reduce electricity waste, consumers will pay more.This simply is not true.

Cheapest, fastest way to save energy

 Jobs in efficiency save ratepayers money and more than pay for themselves, which is one reason why efficiency is the cheapest and fastest way for our state to make sure we have enough power in the years ahead.

When we collectively waste less energy, we do not have to spend as much money on it. According to nonpartisan and independent analyses, for example, every $1 invested in EmPOWER Maryland has returned $1.81 in benefits.

These benefits extend to everyone, even the customers and employers who do not take any action to improve their efficiency. Why? Because when we collectively improve efficiency, we simultaneously reduce our state’s need to generate power from the oldest, most expensive power plants or buy electricity at a premium on the open market.

These savings can help Maryland attract and retain employers, like MGM Resorts, Gaylord National, and Schneider Electric, who support HB514 and the extension of EmPOWER Maryland.

Gov. Hogan often states that, “Maryland truly is open for business.” That is precisely the mentality we need from our governor and we hope it extends to EmPOWER Maryland, which will keep Maryland open for my business and my employees.

Maryland lawmakers wisely passed EmPOWER Maryland in 2008 with bipartisan support. Significant benefits have accrued since then, but we have only begun to tap energy efficiency’s potential. Let’s hope Gov. Hogan continues those benefits and signs this important energy efficiency legislation into law.

Michael Giangrandi is owner of AJ Michaels, a residential and commercial heating, cooling and plumbing company in Baltimore, and chairman of the Maryland Alliance for Energy Contractors.