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Maryland coalition pushes for new standards for renewable energy use

A coalition of environmentalists, business leaders and social justice activists in Maryland are pushing for legislation that would reduce the state’s dependency on fossil fuel by doubling its clean energy mandate from 20 to 40 percent.

“We can and must pass legislation in 2015 to double wind and solar power for Maryland,” said Tommy Landers, the policy director in Maryland for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and a representative of the Maryland Climate Coalition. “As Maryland moves forward with clean energy, we will move forward on jobs, forward on health, and forward on climate action.”

State Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery) has agreed to sponsor the bill in the Senate, but there currently is no House sponsor.

Similar legislation was unsuccessful last session, and Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R) has not offered his views on the proposal.

“There are few sectors in Maryland’s economy that are more promising than the clean energy sector in terms of jobs and growth,” Feldman said in a statement. “Solar is bigger than the crab industry now in this state. This legislation helps expand that prosperity with a sound policy that creates investment certainty for businesses and consumers.”

The state’s current benchmark for Renewable Portfolio Standard is 20 percent by 2022. The new goal under the proposed legislation would be 40 percent by 2025.

Landers said the standard was originally signed by former Gov. Robert L. Erhlich (R) and under the new proposal the rate would gradually increase.

Earlier this week, California lawmakers moved to raise its RPS to 50 percent by 2030.

“Maryland can be a leader and can do the same thing,” Landers said. “We need to.”

Bob Keefe, Executive Director of Environmental Entrepreneurs, a group that represents business leaders and tracks clean energy jobs, said the legislation would improve Maryland’s economy, noting that states with the best clean energy standards have more clean energy jobs and companies seek to locate in states with high standards.

“There is no reason Maryland should not be up there as well,” Keefe said. “All it needs is the political will.”

Ovetta Wiggins writes about K-12 education.