Energy-friendly schools, improved weatherization and aid for small businesses to upgrade their energy efficiency are among the governor’s proposals for how to spend $113.5 million set aside as part of a utility merger completed earlier this year.
The Customer Investment Fund was a condition of the merger, finalized in March, between the Chicago-based Exelon Corp. and Baltimore’s Constellation Energy. The money is intended to pay for improvements in the service area of the Constellation subsidiary Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.
The fund, intended to be spent during the course of three years, was created to ensure the merger would be beneficial to BGE’s ratepayers, according to the Maryland Public Service Commission.
Several proposals for how to spend the fund have been submitted to the PSC, which is scheduled to have a public hearing on the plans Aug. 7. The deadline for submissions was June 15.
Maryland’s proposal, submitted Friday, involves setting aside $44 million for weatherization improvements to low-income communities that use high amounts energy and $15 million to build five “net zero-energy” public schools. The schools would use renewable energy and high-efficiency equipment to stop drawing energy from the grid.
The state’s plan also would set aside $23 million for two programs to provide loans and funding advances to help small businesses make energy upgrades and $5 million to offer low-rate loans for some homeowners.
State officials estimate during the span of 10 years the proposal would save customers $278 million and create or retain more than 1,500 jobs.
“The state’s submission represents yet another example of how energy efficiency and conservation can create jobs while simultaneously saving Maryland families and businesses millions of dollars,” Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) said in a statement.
In a proposal also filed Friday, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) requested $55.7 million from the fund for improvements she says have “substantial synergy overlap” with the state’s plan. The money would pay for in-home energy conservation education efforts, as well as improvements to 4,500 houses, Rawlings-Blake wrote in a letter to the PSC’s executive secretary, David Collins.
Other proposals urged the PSC to focus on using the fund to help those who could particularly benefit from lower energy costs.
“We didn’t ask for any of the money through our coalition,” said Chris Ross, chair of the Baltimore-based Energy Advocates, a coalition of nonprofits such as AARP and religious groups including the Maryland Catholic Conference and the Baltimore Jewish Council. “We just want to make sure low-income consumers are considered with the fund.”
BGE itself offered a proposal that included financing weatherization for low-income housing, as well as for researching and testing energy-efficiency pilot programs. One of the pilot initiatives would be to fund as many as eight zero-energy homes to publicize and gain support for high-efficiency construction techniques.
“The goal of the BGE CIF proposals is to empower, engage and equip BGE customers to save both money and energy today and in the future,” said Rob Gould, BGE spokesman, in an emailed statement.
BGE provides electricity and gas service to Baltimore city and surrounding areas, including Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties and portions of Harford, Carroll, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Frederick, Cecil and Calvert counties.