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Maryland, My Community Electric Utility save $s for My Master Metered Community

May 30th, 2012 · 1 Comment

In 2008, Governor Martin O’Malley signed the EmPower Maryland Act in 2008. The EmPower Maryland  program partners Maryland’s Public Service Commission (PSC) and utility companies in an effort to lower utility usage. The target is a 15% reduction, from a 2007 baseline, by 2014.   EmPower Maryland’s goal is to reduce per capital energy consumption and per capita peak demand by 2014, based on 2007 baseline data. Strategies include commercial and residential energy saving programs that include grants, loans and rebates for retrofits, code compliance, efficient appliances, renewable energy projects and other energy saving activities.

Where do I come in? Leveraging these programs to improve energy efficiency and improve energy understanding in my high-rise multi-metered community in North Bethesda, Maryland. And, leveraging these substantive achievements to assist other multi-metered communities achieve similar benefits.

Free Quick Home Energy Audit

As part of EmPower Maryland, utilities have been allocated a percentage of a surcharge imposed on every electric bill in the state. One of the activities funded through $1.2 million of this money is the free Quick Home Energy Audit and some energy saving freebies that go along with audits. Subcontractors, working for the utilities, provide a quick home energy inspection along with the “freebies.”

In the case of master metered communities, the Quick Home Energy Audit initially provided enough money to cover 1,000 units (the total units covered was 10,000). Imagine the issue here: my building, alone, could have used up over 20 percent of the total allocation and we’re just one of the 1000s of such buildings across the state.  Not surprisingly, the money was used up in a matter of days.  In light of this, in early May 2012, the PSC authorize $16 million in additional funding over a three- year period, including another set-aside for master metered buildings.

Ecobeco, a local firm that did the energy audit for our condo, is one of the subcontractors. Knowing my (and, increasingly, my neighbors’) interest in conservation and energy efficiency, Ecobeco leaned forward and informed me of this opportunity. Here are the ‘freebies’ that they can offer for and install in units in master-metered communities: CFL bulbs, low-flow shower-heads, faucet aerators and power strips.

Previously I’d attempted to get our board to provide at least one CFL to every resident…an expenditure I figured would be paid off in savings in less than two months. They weren’t interested. Then I tried to figure out how to get my neighbors to take the initiative themselves. One of my neighbors owns a hardware store and provided CFLs at a reduced rate.  All told, this sales effort didn’t top three dozen bulbs.  The issue:  while there are very real savings, for the community, the individual will spend extra money upfront to share the savings with over 200 neighbors and friends via lowered utility bills for the entire building — not just the one apartment. (Thus, the core challenge issue of trying to foster energy efficiency habits and investments in units within master-metered communities.) And, if you’re a tenant rather than owner, there are not going to be any savings at all. Surprised that only about three -dozen bulbs were sold?

But, something “for free”????

I told Ecobeco I could probably get about 20 units signed up for this program. Actually, we are at 70 units and still signing people up.

Ecobeco staff set up a three-day schedule and the slots were quickly filled. As soon as the work was underway, the reaction was immediate and positive. Moving beyond the efficiency and politeness of the Ecobeco staff, residents are quite pleased with the end results in terms of their comfort of living.  One person with bad eyesight related that “My apartment is suddenly light like spring time … bright.”

Not just individual units …

Our building had already participated in a County grant program linked with incentives from PEPCO. We improved the efficiency of lighting in our garages, improved our chillers and air-conditioning exchange, put in LED exit sign lights (16 floors, 3 per floor) and light sensors in trash and laundry rooms. As the monthly bills come in, we’re seeing savings.

Estimated Savings

The inside unit work could make a meaningful dent in our utility costs. I promised my neighbors they will be saving the building money and I am certain that we’ll see those savings.  While PEPCO, our electric utility company will be monitoring usage for all properties involved in this program, I’ll be monitoring our building as well. Most of the Ecobeco work was done in late April. Some was done in early May. We will start seeing electric and water savings in the May bills. I plan to compare six years of May and June usage, then spread the word in the building that conservation and efficiency save money.  There are still doubters but I feel certain we’ll see meaningful savings. Ecobeco estimates as a result of the recent unit- by- unit work we’ll see annual savings of about $11,000.

I will let you know.

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Tags: electricity · Energy · energy efficiency · master metering

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