Chief policymakers in Maryland gathered on Tuesday, December 8th to publicly unveil their plan to establish the largest clean energy program in the state’s history. The proposed 2016 “Clean Jobs Act” is a $40 million plan to stimulate Maryland’s clean energy sector and to increase the state’s existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 25 percent by 2020, a sizable increase over the state’s current goal of 20 percent by 2022. This would increase the number of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) needed to be purchased and retired by state electricity suppliers. Two of the plan’s major proponents, Senate Majority Leader Catherine Pugh (D-Baltimore) and Delegate Dereck Davis (D-Prince George’s), announced the plan during a press conference alongside a diverse base of supporters, including small businesses, community colleges, climate advocates, and job training leaders. Senator Pugh and Delegate Davis are also joined by bipartisan co-sponsorship from Senator Brian Feldman and Delegate Bill Frick of Montgomery County, who initiated legislation to expand Maryland’s RPS earlier this year. As 2015 comes to a close, Delegate Davis asserted that “2016 is the year to pass this ‘Clean Jobs Act’ for Maryland.”
The proposed workforce development plan within the larger RPS bill will source $40 million from unallocated contributions from Maryland’s Strategic Energy Investment Fund. If passed, the Act will create an estimated 2,000 additional clean energy jobs and further contribute to the rapidly-growing Maryland renewable energy sector. The state’s solar industry already supports over 3,000 workers, and the industry is expected to add 750 more jobs this year. Collectively, state policies addressing climate change are projected to generate 26,000 to 33,000 new jobs and increase wages by tens of billions of dollars by 2020.
In addition to addressing the state’s economic needs, the bill helps Maryland to address climate change with clean energy, while improving air quality and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The RPS increase will create financial incentives to add approximately 1,300 Megawatts (MW) of clean energy by 2020. Decreasing solar and wind prices and the potential for utilizing untapped energy assets will help facilitate the achievement of this goal. The announcement of the plan follows a positive report from the Department of the Environment that Maryland is well on its way to meeting its existing goals, and broad support from faith, labor, social justice and environmental constituencies bolsters public support for the new plan.
“I’m proud to sponsor this legislation because addressing climate change and improving our economy go hand-in-hand,” said Sen. Feldman. “It’s time to lock in Maryland as a leader in both.”