When I was first elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2007, there were only a few hundred people working in the state’s solar industry. There were no utility-scale wind farms here and offshore wind power wasn’t even a glimmer in the eye of the wildest dreamer.
But today, over 5,000 people work in the solar industry in Maryland. That’s more than the crab industry. And there are 191 megawatts of land-based wind installed in the state and two big offshore wind farms on the way.
Del. Cheryl D. Glenn
What spurred this clean energy growth? According to the wind and solar industries themselves, it was a law passed by the Maryland General Assembly called the Renewable Portfolio Standard Act (RPS). This law, first adopted in 2004 and expanded in 2007 and 2017, now mandates that 25% of Maryland’s electricity come from renewable energy sources. The law has been a smashing success. Just ask the hard-hatted men and women who install these systems – and their families.
But one Maryland nonprofit – Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility (CPSR) – says it’s all a mirage. The group issued a “study” in July – deeply flawed in so many ways — that says our empirically successful clean energy law is actually “undermining” the state’s transition to alternative power. What?
I wouldn’t respond to such a report except that – as we all now know — “alternative facts” can be very dangerous in our nation. We’ve built a great home for wind and solar power in our state, but CPSR wants to take a bulldozer and push the whole house to the ground. If they succeed, they would likely trigger thousands of job losses while increasing the cost of renewable power – hurting poor Marylanders the most. This would also slow our state’s response to climate change. As an African American legislator who cares deeply about the environment and social justice, I cannot and will not just stand by.
At the heart of CPSR’s critique of the state’s RPS law is their baffling inability to understand how the regional renewable energy market works. It’s not possible to build wind farms all across our mostly densely populated state in Maryland. So our RPS law allows Maryland utilities to buy wind power from across the region, using a strictly verified “certificate of purchase” system based on Renewable Energy Credits (RECS). This system is used by dozens of other states and is widely credited by the wind and solar industries – as well as leading government agencies and private think tanks — with driving new clean-energy development while cleaning up our air.
But tragically — against all evidence — the confused leaders at CPSR claim the RECs don’t work. CPSR is telling me and the rest of the Maryland General Assembly and the entire wind and solar industry that we have is all wrong. RECS, according to CPSR, separate the environmental “attributes” of wind power from the actual electrons, thus allowing for corporate abuse and misrepresentation when it comes time for Maryland utilities to conform to the state’s clean energy law. But, as I said, this market is actually closely monitored and the proof is in the pudding:
There has been an explosion of wind and solar development across our state and the region since Maryland and many neighboring states have adopted RPS laws using the REC system that CPSR says is bogus. Alternative facts!
The group Food and Water Watch has also repeated CPSR’s harmful inaccuracies in a way that is clearly intended to divide people – not unite them – in the environmental and justice communities.
But we won’t be divided. In 2019, I will be the lead sponsor of a bill in the House of Delegates called the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act (MCEJA). This bill will double our state’s commitment to wind and solar power and lay the groundwork for achieving 100 percent clean power in coming years.
The bill is already supported by the Maryland NAACP, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, and nearly 700 other environmental and justice groups statewide. A large majority of likely-to-return members of the Maryland House and Senate have explicitly endorsed the bill. It will create thousands more solar jobs, incentivize more offshore wind, and provide job-training and support to veterans, women, and minority-owned businesses in the clean energy industry.
Is our current renewable-power system in Maryland perfect? No. No system is! Again, we’ve built a great home for wind and solar, crafting a policy “house” with a strong foundation and solid walls. But like all houses, over time, this one needs to be expanded some, which my MCEJA bill will do.
We also have a few “leaks” in the roof, especially in the form of the controversial combustion of trash to create electricity. Under current law, this counts as clean power. Under my bill, all RPS subsidies to trash incineration plants such as the BRESCO facility in Baltimore will end.
When legislators return to Annapolis in January, I know our state will eschew all absurd talk of bulldozers and instead unite behind the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act. We’ll keep building a bigger and stronger house for our growing family of clean-energy workers — and for the cleaner air and safe global climate we all need in our future.
— Del. Cheryl D. Glenn
Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, a Democrat, represents Baltimore City’s District 45 in the Maryland House of Delegates.