The $113.5 million that Exelon Corp. agreed to make available for innovative projects — a condition of regulatory approval for its purchase of Constellation Energy in Baltimore — was awarded Thursday to groups planning to help low-income customers, small businesses and others lower their energy bills.
Exelon's Maryland regulator, the Public Service Commission, decided how to distribute the money after receiving 98 proposals. Baltimore will receive the largest single piece of the fund — nearly $53 million will go to the city government for projects to permanently lower energy bills through energy efficiency work such as weatherization, upgrades and lower-usage education.
Projects by other groups will include cost-reduction measures for renters, manufacturers, small businesses and schools in the Baltimore region.
"Today is a great day for the customers of Baltimore Gas and Electric Company," the Public Service Commission said in its order.
BGE's residential customers each received a $100 credit on their May bills as part of the merger agreement. Critics had asked for that credit to be doubled, but the PSC ordered the creation of the fund instead in the hopes of producing longer-lasting results.
The commission said Thursday that the newly funded projects "offer an all-upside-and-no-downside opportunity to do real and durable good in and for Central Maryland."
Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano called the award an "absolutely huge" shot in the arm for programs the city has started — and now will be able to expand.
The city's approach is a coordinated effort to reduce energy bills, such as converting residents from oil heating systems to less expensive natural gas, fixing energy-guzzling homes and teaching people simple ways to reduce energy consumption. The city will also help nonprofits reduce energy costs so they can plow more money into community work.
"We have some success stories already," said Ken Strong, who oversees green, healthy and sustainable home efforts for the city's Department of Housing and Community Development. "We're going to have a lot more."
The city received nearly all the money it had requested. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who made the city's case for funding at a PSC hearing, said in a statement Thursday that greater energy efficiency will have a lasting impact on families' finances and "make our communities stronger."
The Maryland Energy Administration will receive $42.5 million for programs to cut bills for low-income people outside of Baltimore, apartment residents, manufacturers, small businesses and schools. The agency intends to create several "net zero" schools that generate all of their own energy.
The PSC was particularly struck by that last proposal, saying that "only six net zero schools exist nationwide."
•The Fuel Fund of Maryland, which will get nearly $14.9 million to create an endowment and give more BGE customers bill assistance.
•Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc., which will receive $2 million for its no-interest loan fund for energy upgrades and renovations in the city and northwest Baltimore County.
•Baltimore County's Sustainable Dundalk Initiative, awarded $350,000 to reduce energy costs in the Dundalk community.
The remainder — about $902,000 — will go to BGE for administrative costs that the PSC said the utility would see as a result of funded programs.
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