Anyone who has been paying attention to news regarding energy efficiency in the past decade has probably noted a recent lag in discussions pertaining to energy conservation; as one reporter notes, the everyday discussion about energy tends to be less exciting than a discussion about solar power or wind power. Perhaps the fact that eco-friendly products are so easy to find these days is another reason why interest in everyday energy-efficient products appears to be decreasing; it isn’t hard to find energy-efficient light bulbs at any hardware store, or a coffeeshop that has ditched Styrofoam sleeves in favor of tree-friendly recycled cardboard sleeves. Quite simply, the opportunity to be energy efficient is everywhere, and it’s lost much of its novelty.
But as one Baltimore conservation group has noted, merely making energy-efficiency more available to consumers and companies is not the same thing as making it affordable and feasible. It was this realization that led the Baltimore Energy Initiative to propel $52.8 million of state money, over a period of three years, into a variety of community programs that will focus on conservation, education, and outreach. The money will be streamlined into both existing programs and programs that have yet to be launched, and a good portion of the funds will make conservation initiatives more feasible for Baltimore residents, nonprofits, and businesses.
One main focus of the programs is loan assistance and grant allowances for weatherization purposes. With the new funding, businesses will be able to borrow more than $150,000 from the loan program for energy-efficiency projects, and Baltimore residents will be able to take advantage of programs like the Baltimore Energy Challenge Energy Efficiency program, which install efficient equipment free-of-charge for city residents.
Although the program certainly has its limits and won’t be able to provide larger pieces of energy-efficient equipment, the program marks a new development in the energy industry: the equipment and the services are available, and now they just need to be made affordable.
“HVAC systems are by far one of the largest energy consumption factors in homes and businesses,” says Chris Long, Director of Sales and Marketing at All Seasons Comfort Control. “Upgrading HVAC systems allows you to save money as well as being more environmentally friendly by reducing carbon footprints.”
As Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has noted, a large portion of the $113 million donated to the state by the Public Service Commission is going to Baltimore residents and businesses because they can benefit a great deal from the improvements, and because the city has made energy efficiency one of its top priorities in recent years. In the long run, Rawlings-Blake states, the funds won’t just save the environment; an investment now will help Maryland residents save money later.