2 to be honored for environmental leadership

July 20, 1994|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Staff Writer

A Washington think tank is honoring two Anne Arundel County residents today for devising Maryland's 1993 energy performance contracting and financing program that already is saving the state more than $5 million a year.

The Center for Policy Alternatives, a nonprofit center for progressive policy, is presenting "Best Bet" awards for environmental leadership to retiring state Sen. Gerald W. Winegrad of Annapolis and Gerald L. Thorpe of Severna Park, outgoing executive director of the Maryland Energy Administration. The ceremony is this afternoon in the Senate Office Building in Annapolis.

TC The two men were instrumental in putting together and shepherding through the legislature the 1993 bills that streamlined the procurement process for energy-saving work at state agencies and allows guaranteed-result contracts and special financing for the projects. The law applies to everything from new, efficient fluorescent lighting in the 10,000 or so state buildings to electric-powered cars for college campus fleets. Energy savings pay for the improvements.

"The contractor promises it will cost no money out of pocket because . . . the payoff is with money being saved," Mr. Winegrad said. Contractors must guarantee the savings or pay the difference if they are wrong.

"The paybacks average 2 1/2 years, but the savings is forever," Mr. Thorpe said.

For example, Mr. Winegrad said, the Senate office building had $24,550 in energy-efficient lighting installed. Baltimore Gas and Electric rebated $9,842 as part of its own incentive program, leaving a bill of $14,708. The savings from the lights are guaranteed at $6,290 a year, meaning that the changes will have paid for themselves in 2.3 years. The contract is paid for out of those savings, but once the time is up, the savings continue.

"The state can save some $10 million a year in energy costs,

reduce air emissions and delay the need for costly new power plants," said Jeff Tryens, director of the policy center's Sustainable Development Program.

A $15 million revolving line of credit is available to agencies so they can borrow money for improvements at below-market rates.

The combination of the incentives is what led the center for progressive policy to select Maryland's program, said Bill Rice, program associate at the center.

"When we pick these, we think of them as models for other states and national policy," he said.

Maryland is among seven states honored this year.

So far, 186 changes in lighting alone either have been done or are in the works, and another 248 are planned, said Mr. Thorpe. Two performance contracts are done and one is in the works.

Mr. Winegrad, 49, a Democrat considered the Senate's champion of the environment, is retiring after 16 years in the General Assembly. He is considering part-time college teaching positions and working for national conservation groups.

Mr. Thorpe, 56, has held his post since 1991; he has been appointed to the state Public Service Commission, effective in September.

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