Following a press conference held on Friday to encourage Maryland’s lawmakers to double Maryland’s existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), Maryland’s Senate Finance Committee held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the efficacy of such a change, and to gauge just how far lawmakers are willing to go on increasing the requirement.
The Clean Energy Advancement Act of 2015 (HB 377/SB 373), led by Senator Brian Feldman, D-Montgomery, is supported by 16 Senate and 45 House co-sponsors, and would require 25 percent of Maryland’s electricity from clean sources by 2020, with an uptick to 40 percent by 2025. The 40% by 2025 goal would double the state’s current RPS. House sponsor Delegate Bill Frick, D-Montgomery, voiced support for the bill at the House Economic Matters committee meeting on Friday, urging fellow lawmakers that now is the time to increase the RPS, but also expressed his understanding that it may be difficult to pass the bill with the 40 percent mandatory language.
While many lawmakers and Maryland citizens alike believe that Maryland should embrace this opportunity to advance in the clean energy sector, opponents of the bill argue that such a drastic change will create serious economic challenges to utility companies. To deal with the upswing in costs from the proposed goal, an increase of $0.52 is expected in monthly energy bills by 2020. However, proponents of the bill like Tom Landers, policy director for the Climate Change Action Network in Maryland and Washington, D.C., encouraged the policymakers to “. . . have a bigger picture view of the costs, because the costs of fossil fuels are more than what we assume from our bill…”, urging that there are additional economic, environmental, and health costs associated with the continued use of fossil fuels that must be taken into account in the cost equation.
While the proposed bill is engineered to work alongside a 2012 law mandating a 25 percent statewide reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 while simultaneously spurring job growth, the change will undoubtedly come with a price tag. Accordingly, the question becomes whether the benefits of decreased fossil fuel use and increased clean energy use outweigh the rising costs of energy bills. While a handful of representatives expressed their doubts about the sustainability of an increased RPS, statistics show that 69 percent of Marylanders support the increase, in addition to the support in the Maryland House and Senate.
** UPDATE ** Sources who were present at the House and/or Senate hearings have stated that the bill has been revised to remove the 40% by 2025 mandatory language, which means that the bill will only require an RPS of 25% by 2020. However, this amended bill has not yet been posted on Maryland’s General Assembly site, so the text of the amended bill cannot yet be verified.