I wrote last year that Governor O’Malley raided the state’s fund for energy efficiency, and diverted it to one-time checks for energy-assistance. Here’s my view on the matter…
“I’m sure people have noticed their electricity bills have gone up a lot over the past few years. Imagine if there were two things the government could do with the money it has to address this problem. On one hand, they could write you a check for a couple hundred dollars(which is how much higher your bill is every month now…). This might be nice short-term relief, but that money will be gone fast, and you’ll be dealing with the same old electric bill the next month. On the other hand, the government could take the money and invest it in energy efficiency, reducing the size of your electric bill over time every SINGLE month. This is long term relief. While spending this money, we would also be creating jobs, addressing our energy shortage, and reducing pollution. This should be a very easy decision.”
Well, we’ve botched this again this year. It was reported in the MD Daily Record by Danielle Ulman that the diversion of funds for this program has once again been extended, this time through 2012. Meanwhile New York is using these funds to leverage $5 billion in energy efficiency investment. Below is the story. The title says it all…
RGGI funds get diverted to help some pay electric bills
Money meant for energy efficiency programs will instead go to help low- to moderate-income households pay their electric bills after lawmakers agreed to recommendations from the Department of Legislative Services Thursday.
The House of Delegates and the Senate disagreed last month on whether to funnel 50 percent of the money Maryland receives from selling carbon emissions allowances through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, to bill assistance in fiscal 2012. The House had rejected the measure, but budget conference committee members agreed to the Senate’s version of the budget.
RGGI’s purpose is to reduce the carbon emissions of power plants by requiring their owners to purchase carbon allowances based on the amount of pollution they emit. The number of allowances will be reduced over time.
Tommy Landers, a policy advocate with Environment Maryland, said he was “extremely disappointed” by the Legislature’s decision.
“It means that the General Assembly has sent the wrong message,” he said. “They decided against this common [sense] measure that does four things for Maryland — it puts Marylanders to work, it reduces consumption, it reduces stress on the grid and most importantly, it reduces people’s bills.”
Thursday’s decision allocates 50 percent of Maryland’s RGGI proceeds to low-income energy assistance and 17.5 percent for energy efficiency, conservation and programs to control customer electricity use on peak demand days. Residential rate relief has a 23 percent share of the money, clean energy and climate change programs get 6.5 percent and 3 percent goes to administration of the fund.
Originally, 17 percent of Maryland’s money went to bill assistance and 46 percent was supposed to go to energy efficiency. The rest went to residential rate relief, renewable and clean energy programs and fund administration.
Requests for bill assistance have risen as more people find themselves out of work, according to DLS. They said they expected requests to increase again in 2012.
Opponents of the move say energy assistance is important, but it does not help cut down on electricity use. The legislature similarly diverted RGGI money to help cover bills in fiscal 2010 and 2011, but the gap in home weatherization and energy efficiency funding was covered by federal stimulus money, which is expected to be gone before 2012.
“This fight is going to rear its head again next year, and we’ll be back,” Landers said.
Through March 2010, Maryland sold 41.7 million carbon allowances, and raised $113.3 million. It is second among 10 states in sales and proceeds, behind New York, which sold 79.2 million allowances and made $213.4 million.