The Dernogalizer

March 4, 2010

Maryland Needs a Clean Energy Blueprint

Filed under: Energy/Climate,MD Politics — Matt Dernoga @ 7:43 pm
Tags: ,

I want to re-post an op-ed the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) has in the Prince Georges Gazette today on the need to Maryland to have a plan to lead the nation in clean energy production.  See below!

The momentum for renewable energy in Maryland has never been stronger. Gov. Martin O’Malley recently announced his support of a bill that would double the amount of solar electricity used by utilities by 2012. And earlier this month, a study found that Maryland could satisfy two-thirds of its total electricity needs just from off-shore wind farms.

Indeed, there are many clean-energy laws already on the books in Maryland, making the state a national leader. Our state adopted an ambitious “Clean Cars” law in 2007. It participates in a regional cap-and-trade agreement with nine other states to clean up coal-fired power plants. Meanwhile, our lawmakers have set a goal of getting 20 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources by 2022. And, most recently, Maryland passed the strongest state-based cap on global warming pollution in the country.

While these forward-thinking policies are essential for our planet’s health, they are also critical for our state economy. The Maryland Department of the Environment anticipates the transition to a low-carbon economy will provide a $2 billion boost to the state through energy efficiency, conservation and new green jobs by 2020. A study by the International Center for Sustainable Development estimated the state’s clean-energy policies would create up to 326,000 jobs over the next 20 years.

But here’s the question: Is Maryland on track to actually achieve this prosperous clean-energy future? Or — like years of “Save the Bay” promises — will we fall short for lack of real action?

Let’s compare building a clean-energy future to building a house. Constructing a home requires multiple subcontractors — electricians, bricklayers, roofers. These experts need the appropriate building materials, but they also need a plan. They need a blueprint.

On clean energy, Maryland doesn’t have a blueprint yet. State lawmakers have provided many of the building materials we need thanks to a diverse set of policies focused on cleaner cars, coal plants, efficiency and clean electricity. But an actual comprehensive blueprint? Not yet.

True, state lawmakers last year passed a statewide cap on carbon pollution with the visionary goal of reducing global warming pollution 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. One state agency, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), is tasked with coming up with a plan to meet that goal beginning next year. But meanwhile, another state agency, the Public Service Commission (PSC), is tasked with reviewing utilities’ plans for new power plants and transmission lines. And here is the kicker: The PSC does not have to consider laws like the carbon cap when approving or denying utility permits. The PSC could easily approve a new carbon-spewing coal plant today, virtually guaranteeing that Maryland would not hit its carbon-reduction goals tomorrow.

Again, what we need is an energy blueprint — a comprehensive energy plan to make sure all of our energy decision-makers are working toward the same end result.

Del. Roger Manno (D-Dist. 19) has introduced a bill, HB 522, which will do just that. It would require the PSC to approach long-range state energy analysis and planning in a way that is consistent with all state environmental laws. When confronted with a proposal for new energy generation or transmission, this bill would also direct the PSC to consider all available energy options, including energy efficiency and renewable energy, and review each proposal’s merit with respect to state environmental laws. Sen. Mike Lenett (D-Dist.19) has introduced a similar bill in the state Senate, with the Maryland Department of Planning in charge of creating the comprehensive plan.

These bills just make sense. Again, you wouldn’t build a house without a blueprint, and we don’t want the state to start construction on new energy projects without a comprehensive plan. We can meet our energy needs and our environmental and climate goals at the same time — as long as we don’t put plumbing on the roof and use windows for doors. It’s all got to fit together from the start.

Kirsten Collings is campaign director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

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