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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative with a 2012 Energy Star Partner of the Year Award for its contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by delivering information and services to its customers to increase energy efficiency.

SMECO’s accomplishments were recognized at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., on March 15, which marked the 20th anniversary of Energy Star.

SMECO, which has promoted Energy Star programs for more than 12 years, was honored for its work to increase market share of energy-efficient Energy Star qualified products, services and homes through comprehensive outreach, education and marketing programs.

Over the past 20 years, American families and businesses have saved nearly $230 billion on utility bills and prevented greenhouse gas emissions equal to those from more than 350 million vehicles with help from Energy Star, according to a news release from SMECO.

“SMECO works in partnership with Energy Star to help our customers become more energy efficient,” Jeff Shaw, SMECO’s environmental programs and energy conservation manager, said in the release. “By using Energy Star-certified appliances and compact fluorescent lights, or by purchasing a new Energy Star home, our customers can save energy and save money while helping to preserve the environment.”

The Energy Star Partner of the Year Awards for Energy Efficiency Program Delivery are given to a variety of organizations in recognition of their efforts to improve energy efficiency and reduce pollution, resulting in cost savings.

Award winners are selected from about 20,000 organizations that participate in the program.