Baltimore City Targets Energy Use Reductions Across Its Portfolio

The City of Baltimore is home to more than 622,000 people. As Maryland’s largest city, it is responsible for the energy costs at more than 1,100 facilities, ranging from the typical—city hall, courthouse, schools, firehouses, libraries and recreation centers— to the less so, such as substations, museums, parking garages, a convention center and even a zoo! The enormous task of evaluating the efficiency of the lights, heating and cooling in city buildings and much more falls to the employees of the Department of Public Works' Office of Sustainable Energy (OSE). Since its 2006 inception, the OSE has aggressively sought to improve energy efficiency across its portfolio of facilities and equipment, holding the belief that the best way to save energy is not to use it.

Savings at a Glance

The City of Baltimore used financial incentives from BGE's Smart Energy Savers Program to make energy efficiency upgrades in more than 125 facilities across the city.

  BGE Programs: Energy Solutions for Business and Small Business Energy Solutions
  Total number of projects: 128
  Incentives paid: $2,501,678
  Energy savings: 9,868,859 kWh/year
  Cost savings: $986,885/year


In fiscal year 2014, the Baltimore City government spent more than $54 million on energy, with electricity costs accounting for 65% of the energy bill. That's more than the budget of some city agencies. "Cost savings is a big motivator for us," says OSE Energy Projects Manager Mark Benson. "We'd rather the money be spent supporting the missions of our agencies."

An early adopter, Baltimore was one of the first city governments in Maryland to participate in the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program®. Baltimore City teamed up with BGE to take advantage of technical assistance and financial incentives to help pay for energy efficiency upgrades in many of its facilities. To date, the city has received more than $2.5 million in incentives that helped offset the cost of energy efficiency projects across the city.

The BGE Solution

In 2014, with the help of incentives from the BGE Smart Energy Savers Program, Baltimore City completed energy upgrades in recreation centers, libraries, charter schools and police stations in just 3 months. Projects included switching to more efficient lights, upgrading old heating and air conditioning systems and replacing refrigerators with high-efficiency models.

The OSE's first priority was to upgrade the lighting in buildings operated by the Department of Recreation and Parks, specifically recreation centers, some of which were located in low- to moderate-income areas that had not received adequate attention over the years. The new lighting not only provides financial savings but also creates a more comfortable atmosphere for the families and city workers who use the facilities. Visitors to a city-operated ice rink applauded the more even lighting as a marked improvement over the previous condition of having light and dark areas on the ice. At a police warehouse where half the lighting was burned out, employees were very appreciative of the upgrade to more consistent and brighter lighting.

At the Fred B. Leidig Recreation Center, Director Jessica E. Cook-Thomas says that "the hallway and one room were really dark before. It’s so much brighter. I love it! Also, there is a great benefit in the more efficient lighting, not just in cost-effectiveness, but also the community feels safer entering the building."

Another key project was upgrading the Baltimore Convention Center. This downtown facility with 1.2 million square feet of space is a cornerstone of the city's hospitality and tourism industry. Through the BGE program, the convention center received more than $1 million toward energy conservation measures, including sophisticated lighting controls, kitchen exhaust hood controls with variable frequency drives and upgrades to the heating and air conditioning system. The building's upgrades are projected to save the city approximately $300,000 in energy costs and 3,000,000 kWh annually.

The Benefits

By installing energy-saving technologies and replacing outdated equipment with high-efficiency models, Baltimore City's efficiency projects are reducing wasted energy. To date, more than 70% of the energy savings have come from the lighting retrofits alone. The city is also saving about 12% on energy costs by replacing or optimizing the performance of heating, ventilation and air conditioning and other mechanical systems.

Looking Ahead

As part of her 10-year plan, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is working to bring 10,000 new families into the city. Saving energy allows for more money to invest in the infrastructure to support this growth. "We choose projects that are cost effective and use proven technologies," says Anne Draddy, program manager at OSE. "We also identify the most capital-efficient and effective financing methods, which include use of the rebates available through BGE's Smart Energy Savers Program. We're saving the city—and ultimately residents—serious money."

To other municipalities considering whether to do energy efficiency projects, Benson offers this advice: "Educate yourselves. Talk to your BGE account representative about the kinds of projects that might be right for your facilities and for help clarifying the savings you could achieve. Then go for the low-hanging fruit. Change out your lighting first. That's your biggest bang for the buck. Just do it! Do it now. You can save money."

To read more about the Baltimore City project, click here.