The future of Maryland’s energy use is looking a little greener after the midterm election.
With a roster of newly elected officials in the Maryland House of Delegates and Senate, legislation promising a larger commitment to renewable energy is likely to pass next session.
Maryland voters elected in a supermajority of candidates to the General Assembly who have explicitly signed support for the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act.
Generally, a supermajority refers to party affiliation within a state legislature. In this case, though, it means at least three-fifths of the Maryland General Assembly would block Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto to allow the Clean Energy Jobs Act to pass.
If successful, the legislation would bolster the state’s reliance on renewable energy and possibly lead to an expansion of offshore wind projects near Ocean City. Offshore wind has been a highly contested issue on the Eastern Shore for the past few years, so this increased commitment to clean energy could cause more strain on local officials.
Leading up to the midterm election, Maryland Republicans campaigned hard to break the Democratic supermajority in the Senate, but to no avail. The Republicans needed to win five additional seats to sustain the governor’s veto, and they only gained one, which was Mary Beth Carozza.
Now, looking ahead to the 2019 General Assembly session, it is likely that when the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act is addressed, the bill will pass through both chambers and survive a Hogan veto.
What is the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act?
The Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act would set a new statewide Renewable Portfolio Standard of 50 percent by 2030. Adopting an RPS requires a state to ensure a certain amount of electricity comes from renewable energy resources.
In 2016, Maryland’s General Assembly passed legislation that adopted an RPS of 25 percent by 2020, but Hogan vetoed the bill. A supermajority of legislators who supported the clean energy bill then had to override the governor’s veto in 2017.
If the commitment to 50 percent renewable energy is passed next year, bill advocates expect legislators to also develop a plan to help Maryland reach 100 percent clean energy by 2040.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act was first introduced to the General Assembly during this year’s session, but the bill was ultimately withdrawn. Advocates are confident, though, that with the supermajority of support, the legislation will pass next year.
Several Maryland groups campaigned up to the election to garner support for increased statewide renewable energy use, including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the American Wind Energy Association, the Maryland League of Conservation Voters and the Utility Scale Solar Energy Coalition of Maryland, among others.
These organizations held town halls and forums, knocked on doors and made phone calls to raise awareness about the legislation and candidates who supported it.
Supporters of the bill are hoping it is addressed early on in next year’s General Assembly session, said Brooke Harper, Maryland director of the CCAN Action Fund and political action chair of the Maryland State Conference of the NAACP.
“We’ll be there on the very first day of session with our activists and our organizational supporters to send a strong message that this bill needs to get across the finish line this year,” Harper said.
Regular session for the Maryland General Assembly begins on Jan. 9, 2019 and runs for 90 days.
Going into next year’s session knowing the legislation has the votes it needs, advocates hope this will mark Maryland as a nationwide leader for clean energy use.
How are other states handling renewable energy use?
Approving the Clean Energy Jobs Act next session would bring Maryland up to speed with several other states that have made renewable energy commitments of 50 percent or higher.
California, New Jersey and New York all have RPS requirements of 50 percent by 2030.
The District of Columbia made an RPS commitment of 50 percent by 2032. By the same year, Vermont promised to use 75 percent green energy.
Oregon pledged an RPS of 50 percent by 2040. In the same time span, Hawaii promised to achieve 70 percent clean energy use, and then step up to 100 percent by 2045.
Not all states have made commitments this large, though. Delaware adopted an RPS of 25 percent by 2025-26. Virginia has a goal to reach 15 percent renewable energy use by 2025.
Currently, 29 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories have RPS requirements. Eight states and one U.S. territory have made voluntary goals to reach certain renewable energy standards, according to the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy.
What does this mean for Maryland?
If this bill passes, it would launch Maryland to the forefront of the renewable energy scene as a state with one of the highest RPS requirements to date.
To fulfill the potentially higher renewable energy quota, Maryland would need to increase its use of solar power.
“We would see the revival of our solar industry with the increased carve out,” Harper said. “It would create about 20,000 new jobs in the solar industry over the next decade.”
The proposed Clean Energy Job Act also includes a commitment to 1.2 gigawatts of offshore wind power, which would greatly boost Maryland’s investment, Harper said.
This potential energy hike would more than triple the power the state anticipates it will receive from the two projects currently in progress off the coast of Ocean City. The wind farms being developed by U.S. Wind and Deepwater Wind have a combined capacity of about 370 megawatts.
Already a hotly debated issue on the Eastern Shore, the potential for an increased focus on offshore wind energy could lead to further debates.
Ocean City town leaders could not be reached for comment on this article, but for the past year have said they are for renewable energy that is green and unseen. The town has set its own renewable energy goal at 51 percent by 2019.
Clean energy supporters hope this proposed legislation will ensure Maryland stays competitive with other states who are also seeking a switch to more renewables.
“We look forward to working with the newly elected legislature and Governor Hogan to realize Maryland’s great potential for offshore wind energy. Strong bipartisan support at the state and federal level gives businesses confidence to invest in jobs and infrastructure that will kick Maryland’s clean energy economy into high gear,” said Andrew Gohn, eastern region director of the American Wind Energy Association.
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