Opinion: New Bills Could Keep Md.’s Solar Momentum Going

Solar
Zbynek Burival/unsplash.com.

In Annapolis, the 442nd legislative session got underway in January and, as with many sessions before, there is no shortage of bills for legislators to review, learn, debate and resolve.

2019 was a milestone year for renewable energy in Maryland with the passing of the Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) — a revolutionary step for the state. This bill brought an admirable goal of putting the state on the path to 50% clean energy by 2030, including a focused deployment of solar projects aimed at producing 14.5% of the state’s electricity during that same time period. But that was two years ago mixed with a year of challenges due to COVID-19.

Maryland was once a national leader in the race for renewable energy innovation. Over the past 10 years, more than 70,000 Marylanders have chosen to add solar generation to their homes, and the coming decade should offer better access to solar for Marylanders. Rough estimates predict that more than 150,000 homeowners will benefit with solar in the coming decade, either by putting solar on their own homes or participating in Maryland’s community solar pilot project.

Each homeowner, renter, school district, farm, small and large business, and state agency that adds solar moves the state closer to achieving the goals of CEJA. In doing so, each additional megawatt of new solar capacity will have contributed to the creation of more than 20,000 jobs and billions of dollars in private investment in the state.

But as 2030 approaches, will the legislature continue to lead it in the right direction? Fortunately, a quick glance at this legislative session indicates that Annapolis continues smart solar advancement in both the House of Delegates and Senate.

Here’s a brief list of the legislation currently in the legislature:

HB419/SB460 — These companion bills are designed to encourage clean energy development in the state and provide funding for these efforts through bodies like the Maryland Clean Energy Center and the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute. When passed, the bill would go into effect July 1.

HB569/SB407 — These bills would increase the statewide limit for net energy metering. Net metering allows for excess solar power generated from households and businesses to be sent back to the grid, and customers receive bill credits as compensation. However, the total number of net metered systems is capped. This bill increases this cap, providing greater runway to homeowners, businesses and community solar facilities through 2030.

HB584/SB508 — This combination of bills makes it easier for large energy users – like industrial facilities – and municipalities to host solar projects. The City of Bowie is helping advance this bill to ensure residents can benefit from the cost savings of solar power.

HB583/SB414: These bills support more solar deployment on rooftops, parking lots, roadways or brownfields sites, provided at least half of the solar power is directed to low- or moderate-income customers. The act, known as the Climate Solutions Act, also requires solar-ready rooftops and encourages solar installations on public schools.

All of these bills, and others, build on the success of the Clean Energy Jobs Act and aim to increase private investments locally, as well as create job growth, innovation, increased local electric generation and increased access to clean energy. They also bring overall ratepayer benefits, including contributions to grid modernization, an improved environment and reduced dependency on an aging grid. Individuals, communities and policymakers statewide have the choice to support clean energy use that is distributed statewide on rooftops, parking areas, brownfields, community solar fields and utility scale solar farms.

The momentum supports Marylanders. Solar advocates throughout the state are working hard and are dedicated to making Maryland a leader in the country when it comes to solar deployment and innovation.

Do your part — let your state delegates and senators know you want them to keep it going by supporting the aforementioned legislation. You can make a difference — and keep Maryland in its leading position as a national bellwether for renewable energy policy.

JOHN FINNERTY

The writer is director of business development for Rockville-based Standard Solar.