By - Jim Vess

Maryland once again wrestling with a push to raise the state’s renewable energy standard

Energize Weekly, April 3, 2019

The Maryland legislature is taking a second stab at raising the state’s standard for renewable electricity generation to 50 percent by 2030 from the current target of 25 percent in 2020.

Last year, a similar effort stalled as a key committee—the House of Delegates’ Economic Committee—rejected the legislation.

The 25 percent renewable portfolio standard (RPS) was adopted two years ago, and it required a legislative override of a veto of the bill by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, who called it a “$100 million energy tax.”

Hogan has not endorsed the current bill, but last December, he and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam wrote an op-ed column in The Washington Post contending that with the Trump administration rolling back environmental and climate initiatives, states have to take the lead.

“For the sake of our future and the future of our children, it is time to put aside partisan interest and get to work,” the two governors said.

The state Senate passed the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2019 on March 20 on a 33-to-13 vote. A week earlier, the House Economic Committee fell two votes short of killing the bill for another year.

Still, the bill’s fate in the House is not clear, and it remains in committee.

More than 110 legislators support the bill, according to the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative, a health and environment lobbying group.

The bill would create significant incentives for solar and offshore wind.

Under the current RPS, 2.5 percent of the renewable energy resources have to come from solar and 2.5 percent from offshore wind. The legislation raises those targets to 14.5 percent for solar and a minimum of 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind projects.

In addition, it requires a study of the impacts of the revised RPS and the feasibility of increasing the standard to 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

Among the bills other provisions are:

  • The establishment of new criteria and a program for the development of qualified offshore wind projects less than 10 miles off the state’s coast. The Public Service Commission would be required to approve projects with “net economic, environmental and health benefits to the state” that do not increase the net rate on average customers by specified amounts.
  • The funding of small, minority, women and veteran-owned businesses in the state’s clean energy industry.
  • The creation and funding of the Clean Energy Workforce Account, a program to train individuals to work in the state’s clean energy industry. Disqualifying trash incineration from receiving renewable energy subsidies. This is aimed at the facilities such as Baltimore’s Wheelabrator incinerator, which is the city’s largest source of industrial air pollution.

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