August 26, 2021
What is EmPOWER Maryland?
If you look closely at your monthly utility bill, you may notice a small surcharge for EmPOWER Maryland. This charge contributes to a group of programs established under the EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act of 2008, a bill designed to reduce energy consumption state-wide. Under EmPOWER, Maryland utilities are required to offer programs that incentivize energy efficiency and conservation, while also helping homes and businesses save money on their utility bill. So far, EmPOWER programs have saved 11,971,724 MWh and 2,363 MW of Maryland’s peak demand, and are expected to create $12 billion in savings by the end of 2020. This conservation contributes to the state’s annual energy savings goal of 2% of gross energy sales, set in 2017.
Available programs are managed by Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), Delmarva Power and Light, Potomac Edison, Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco), Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, Inc. (SMECO), and Washington Gas Light Company (WGL). The utilities offer a suite of programs, providing a variety of rebates for residential and commercial properties.
EmPOWER Maryland Programs for ENERGY STAR New Home Construction
As new construction continues to pop up around Maryland, energy efficiency becomes increasingly important in efforts to mitigate climate change. Builders are encouraged to offer ENERGY STAR certified homes and appliances, as they meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s strict energy performance standards. However, since energy efficient construction demands extra costs and fulfillment of strict criteria, it can be difficult to accomplish.
Achieving ENERGY STAR certification means building better than code, requiring builders to potentially spend more money and time to understand and meet these requirements. As Jay Hall of the green home and building consulting firm Jay Hall and Associates Inc explained, builders are already working hard to simply finish projects and meet housing needs, so going above and beyond code may not always be realistic without help. The EmPOWER program for ENERGY STAR new home construction bridges the gap between cost and sustainability by offering rebates directly to the builder for ENERGY STAR certified construction and equipment.
“The new construction programs are unique because the incentives go to the builder. In almost every other incentive program, commercial or residential, it goes directly to the customer,” said Alex Emond, Program Manager at ICF International Inc for the Maryland ENERGY STAR New Homes Program. Alex noted, “a lot of these builders could just sell homes that are code-built — I mean they are very nice homes, customers may or may not know if they have an ENERGY STAR home or not — but we’re hoping that these incentives actually get [builders] to participate in our program regularly, and to take extra attention to the details that provide energy efficiency.”
Another element that makes the incentive effective, is that every major Maryland utility participates, meaning rebates are offered throughout the state. Plus, each utility has contracted ICF International Inc. to manage their new construction incentives, making their rebate programs similar in structure. No matter where in Maryland a project is located, builders have the incentive to meet ENERGY STAR standards.
A High-quality, Healthy Home
By helping builders achieve ENERGY STAR certification, the incentives also help to ensure a quality product. A home that meets ENERGY STAR testing criteria is at least 10% more energy efficient than a home built to code and produces an average energy savings of 20%. Plus, the homes ensure enduring quality, wall-to-wall comfort, energy efficiency, lower costs, and confidence in the construction process.
“I always promote green programs [like ENERGY STAR] as making homes healthier than a code home, making it more durable, making it more energy efficient, and environmentally responsible too,” expressed Jay.
Alex emphasized that the EmPOWER incentive benefits a range of builders; from national construction builders to medium sized and custom home builders. ICF and Maryland’s utilities are continuously trying to reach new builders that don’t already participate. For Montgomery County, that means encouraging the participation of custom home builders.
To add on to the benefits, energy efficiency in new construction contributes to Maryland’s EmPOWER energy saving and climate action goals. Builders can offset costs and support green development by taking advantage of the EmPOWER program for ENERGY STAR new home construction. Likewise, homebuyers can support the program by choosing participating homebuilders and raters who are registered service providers with a utility. If you are looking to build a new home, check out the available rebates below offered by your local utility!
Images above of supply air flow testing and duct testing
In Montgomery County, the following utilities offer EmPOWER programs for ENERGY STAR new home construction: BGE, Pepco, Potomac Edison, and Washington Gas. Participating homebuilders can earn up to $1,250 in rebates for each qualifying home, additional rebates for energy-efficient appliances, as well as resources to help them build and sell each home.
The above three electrical utilities offer the following rebates to new ENERGY STAR Version 3.1 certified homes with 100% LED installation:
|Housing Type||Rebate Amount|
|Single-Family Detached Home||$1,250|
|Townhouse or Duplex||$750|
BGE offers an additional $1,000 rebate to qualifying homes, of any housing type, that earn the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) certification.
|ENERGY STAR Smart Thermostat||$75|
|≥16 SEER Air Conditioner||$200|
|≥16 SEER and ≥10 HSPF Heat Pump||$350|
|≥3.0 UEF Heat Pump Water Heater*||$500|
*Potomac Edison also lists >2.25 EF Heat Pump Water Heaters as eligible.
Washington Gas provides complementary natural gas offerings to those supplied by the previous three electric utilities. Through their New Home Construction Program the utility provides builders with informative newsletters, trainings, vendor assistance, and of course, financial incentives for energy-efficient homes and equipment. These resources are available to eligible homebuilders and HERS raters who join the network. Washington Gas’s available rebates can be found below.
*The first two tables exhibit new construction rebates that are run through Washington Gas’s partner electric utilities, and are not found on Washington Gas’s website. For homes built in a service territory that overlaps with Washington Gas, the utility is committed to a 50/50 cost share with the applicable electric utility.
The third table shows the utility’s equipment rebates. Many of these are also available to Maryland homeowners as residential rebates.
ENERGY STAR Version 3.1 certified homes:
|Housing Type||Rebate Amount*|
|Single-Family Detached Home||$1,250|
|Townhouse or Duplex||$750|
|Zero Energy Ready Home (ZERH) Certification||$1,000|
|Equipment||Efficiency Requirement||Rebate Amount|
|Storage Water Heater (Tier 1)||ENERGY STAR certified||$100|
|Storage Water Heater (Tier 2)||ENERGY STAR certified
Minimum UEF 0.69
|Tankless Water Heater (Tier2)||ENERGY STAR certified
Minimum UEF 0.89
|Furnace||ENERGY STAR certified
|Boiler (Tier 1)||ENERGY STAR certified||$400|
|Boiler (Tier 2)||ENERGY STAR certified
Minimum 95% AFUE
|Combi Boiler||Minimum 90% AFUE
And/or minimum 0.87 UEF
Written by Susannah Auderset, Montgomery County Climate Planning Team Intern, Summer 2021.