By Dorothy Hood, Capital News Service
Wind energy advocates got a lift for their cause from the breezy conditions for their rally Wednesday, as their materials and props were swept off seats and scattered on Lawyer’s Mall.
Jamie DeMarco, Maryland Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, led the rally in support of the Promotion of Offshore Wind Energy Resource Act. Proponents of the legislation are trying to assure it passes one chamber or another before missing Monday’s crossover deadline makes its success less likely.
“We showed up for wind, wind showed up for us,” advocates chanted during the rally.
SB 781, sponsored by Sen. Katie Fry Hester, D-Howard and Montgomery, passed out of the Senate Education, Energy and the Environment Committee Tuesday night. This bill is also cross-filed with HB 793, sponsored by Del. Lorig Charkoudian, D-Montgomery. It was heard by the House Economic Matters Committee on March 6.
According to Hester, the bill does three things: First, it will set the target for 8.5 gigawatts of clean, renewable energy from offshore wind; second, the bill takes a “thoughtful approach” to transmission and generation; and last, it takes a “novel approach to procurement.”
According to the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a watt is a measure of power, and one gigawatt equals 333 utility-scale wind turbines or 100 million LEDs.
At the rally, Hester said, the Department of General Services will be buying this power, which allows Maryland to not only power the state with clean energy, but ultimately to become a net exporter.
Maryland has four offshore wind projects approved that are scheduled to create a combined power capacity of 2022.5 megawatts of clean, renewable energy – enough to power 600,000 average Maryland homes by 2026. These four projects will create 12,000 full-time-equivalent jobs, using Baltimore City and Ocean City area port facilities.
The Director of Climate Policy and Justice at the Maryland League of Conservation Voters Rebecca Rehr said the POWER Act will take a comprehensive look at bringing offshore wind energy to land.
The POWER Act will facilitate the construction of a shared transmission infrastructure to reduce the cost and environmental impact of future offshore wind projects. For offshore wind energy to come onshore, there have to be transmission lines, she said.
The bill directs the Public Service Commission to run a study to find the most efficient and least expensive way to bring that energy onshore.
“Updating transmission and the grid, and designing a payment for the energy, experimenting with a way to pay for the energy that doesn’t fall on the backs of ratepayers,” Rehr said.
Charkoudian spoke at the rally about why the bill is important to Maryland in terms of meeting greenhouse gas reductions, growing the economy, providing union jobs, and hiring minority women and veteran-owned businesses.
“The reason it’s good is because it was built by an extraordinary coalition of people,” Charkoudian said.
Executive Director of Conservation Voters Kim Coble is in support of the “best bill we have this year.” Last year the organization helped pass the Climate Solutions Now Act with the “most aggressive greenhouse gas reduction goals in the country,” Coble said.
It will take courage, teamwork and tenacity to get this bill passed, Coble said.
“I am calling on the Senate and the House to pass this bill immediately and get us going on renewable energy and 100% clean energy in Maryland.”
Emily Scarr, the state director of the Maryland PIRG also supports the POWER Act. She said the bill will put Maryland on the path to generating 100% of the state’s energy from clean, renewable sources.
“This will help save ratepayers money, also reducing pollution that harms our health and our climate,” Scarr said.
DeMarco had advocates holding down flimsy cardboard cutouts from being blown away at the rally, depicting a school, an electric car and a home powered by a heat pump, all using electricity. “We can use this offshore wind energy to power every aspect of our society,” he said.