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Energy conservation bill proposed

February 23, 2001

Energy conservation bill proposed



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


ANNAPOLIS - Environmentalists and Glendening Administration officials are backing a proposed energy conservation program that would cost the average Maryland household 75 cents a month.

"It's less than a cup of coffee in our canteen," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, D-Montgomery, who is sponsoring legislation to begin the Energy Savings Investment Program.

The program would raise $40 million to $50 million a year to be spent on:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Development of statewide energy conservation programs for commercial, industrial and residential customers of electricity and natural gas.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Incentives and technical support to increase the use of energy-efficient appliances, lighting, windows, heating, air conditioning and electric lawn mowers.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Helping low-income customers save energy.

The Maryland General Assembly eliminated its energy savings programs when it approved electricity deregulation legislation two years ago.

Supporters fear that if Maryland doesn't do something to decrease demand other than build new power plants, customers could be headed for dramatically higher energy bills.

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"Just like you cannot road-build your way out of traffic congestion, you can't power-plant your way out of high electricity demand," said Frederick H. Hoover Jr., director of the Maryland Energy Administration.

If the state encourages people to save energy, it will ultimately help lower energy costs for everyone, supporters said.

"It reduces overall demand and reduces pressure on price," said Maryland Peoples Counsel Michael Travieso, a consumer advocate.

Electric utilities lobbied to get rid of the conservation programs two years ago because it lowers their profits, he said.

Ray Bourland, director of Maryland state affairs for Allegheny Energy, said the Hagerstown-based company favors energy savings but not of the kind being proposed by Frosh and Del. Brian K. McHale, D-Baltimore. Previous energy-savings programs were not cost-effective, he said.

A better alternative is a bill sponsored by Sen. Jean W. Roesser, R-Montgomery, which would give state income tax credits to people who take steps to conserve energy, Bourland said.

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