Maryland House approves 25% renewables mandate, sending bill to Senate
- The Maryland House of Delegates voted to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2016 (HB 1106) on Monday, sending the bill to the upper house of the legislature by a margin of 92-43. The bill would increase Maryland’s 20% by 2022 renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 25% by 2020.
- The higher mandate is expected to grow 1,300 MW of new renewable generation in Maryland and create over 1,000 new jobs in solar and 4,600 in wind. It would also help the state meet its pending goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 2006 levels by 2030, which lawmakers sent to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) last week.
- A provision in an early version of the bill for record-level investment in clean energy job training and programs to support development of minority- and women-owned energy businesses was separated from the new RPS bill and set aside for a separate workforce development bill.
On the heels of an ambitious bill to cut greenhouse gas emissions passed last week, lawmakers in Maryland's lower house have backed a measure that would increase the state's renewable energy portfolio standard to 25% by 2020.
When they introduced the RPS hike back in December, Democratic leaders in the legislature sold it to the public on economic grounds, saying it would stimulate job creation and business growth in the clean energy sector.
“The Clean Jobs Act will give more Marylanders the opportunity to thrive in the growing clean technology sector and put cities like Baltimore on the forefront of clean energy development," Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh said at the time.
Renewable energy policies enjoy wide support among voters in the state.
A recent Maryland Climate Coalition poll found 71% of the state’s voters strongly supported or somewhat supported increasing the RPS to 25% even if it added $0.50 per month to their electricity bills. That included over 75% of Democrats and Independents and 51% of Republicans.
Of those polled, 48% said they would be much more likely or somewhat more likely to vote for a legislator who voted for the new mandate. Only 13% are less likely or somewhat less likely to vote for such a legislator.
Passage of the RPS increase in the lower house follows the passage of Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2016 in the Senate last week, sending the bill to Republican Governor Larry Hogan for his signature. Only California and New York have stronger emissions reductions rules and both those were the product of executive actions, not the result of the kind of bipartisan commitment shown by Maryland lawmakers.
If Maryland lawmakers agree to increase their RPS to 25%, it would put it among the more ambitious state standards throughout the nation. 29 states and the District of Columbia had renewable energy standards as of October 2015:
- Chesapeake Climate Action Network Maryland House Advances Major Bill to Expand Renewable Energy