I am pleased to see Maryland Environment Secretary Ben Grumbles acknowledge the state’s successful energy efficiency program, EmPOWER Maryland (“Hogan administration is committed to confronting the climate crisis,” Oct. 7). Left unstated was that, at current funding levels for EmPOWER Maryland, it will take 130 years for Maryland to provide energy-efficient retrofits to the households who need it most: our 450,000 low-income households.
As Secretary Grumbles wrote, “the need for action is more urgent than ever before.” The Hogan administration and General Assembly can right this wrong in the next legislative session with new investments in EmPOWER Maryland. Temperatures are rising twice as fast in Baltimore as the rest of the country yet low-income households have to wait 130 years for assistance. To make matters worse, they pay 550% more as a portion of income for energy as non-low-income Marylanders. Why? The cost of energy efficiency retrofits, such as new windows and insulation, is simply beyond the reach of many property owners.
Properties remain energy inefficient and low-income residents are left to endure unhealthy living conditions such as drafty windows, poor insulation, and spotty electrical systems. Without new investments in EmPOWER Maryland to provide energy-efficient retrofits, our affordable housing stock will continue to dwindle. Energy efficiency is a proven strategy for combating climate change and preserving affordable housing for Marylanders who depend on it. It’s also a great economic engine. Maryland’s 70,000 energy efficiency workers are well suited and eager to perform new energy efficiency retrofits and home energy performance audits funded by EmPOWER Maryland — if sufficient funding is available to do the job.
A group of business, environmental, and affordable housing advocates have proposed a legislative plan to achieve 32,000 energy-efficient retrofits in low-income homes annually. That would enable us to serve all 450,00 low-income households in just 13 years. With bold new investments in EmPOWER Maryland, we can help low-income households start saving energy and money in just a decade instead of 130 years.
Todd Nedwick, Washington, D.C.
The writer is housing and energy efficiency policy director for the National Housing Trust.