Supporters Want Increased Renewable Energy in Maryland

Supporters of clean energy urged lawmakers on Friday to increase Maryland's renewable energy requirement, but some electricity industry officials contend it would come with a big price tag.

The measure calls for increasing the state's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard requirement from 20 percent by 2022 to 40 percent by 2025.

However, Del. Bill Frick, a Montgomery County Democrat who is sponsoring the measure, said he understands some aren't comfortable with going that high. He is proposing to change the bill to make the requirement 25 percent by 2020.

"We think that by enhancing our near-term commitment, we believe that there are long-term benefits even without that 40 percent mandatory language," Frick told the House Economic Matters Committee.

Maryland established its renewable energy standards in legislation approved in 2004. Mike Tidwell, director of Chesapeake Climate Action Network, testified that Maryland has created jobs in clean industry, and a growing number of people are making a living off of renewables.

"Already, our solar industry is actually contributing more to our state than our iconic crabbing industry," Frick said.

But some industry officials say the cost will be too high.

Tom Dennison, a spokesman for the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative, said companies are making big investments just to reach the current goal of 20 percent by 2022, and additional mandates will cost ratepayers more. Dennison noted that southern Maryland now gets about 10 percent of its electricity from renewables.

Dan Tompkins, of FirstEnergy, said reaching the proposed new goals would create an "incredibly substantial cost increase."

"These are technologies and sources of electricity generation that simply cost more money than other sources of generation do," Tompkins said. "It is that simple."

The bill as initially drafted would increase monthly energy bills between 17 and 68 cents in 2018, according to a state analysis of the measure. The increase would have risen to between $2.05 and $8.20 in 2025. The analysis says small businesses would incur higher electricity prices under the bill. However, the measure also would create demand for solar and other renewable energy technology installations. Small businesses in the industry would benefit from increased demand for renewables under the bill.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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