Greenlaurel: Coalition Urges Md. to Hit 50 Percent Renewables By 2030

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A CivicWorks’ Solar Job trainee shares his success story at the ‘Forward with 50’ press event. He’s on his way to a new career in solar.

The newly organized Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative, boasting at least 330 organizations, will urge lawmakers to source 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and to invest in solar training programs. Energized people-power is critical because the Trump administration has punted on anything renewable leaving states to come up with their own climate change solutions.

Though its name is pretty wonky sounding, Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is an important electricity work order. The RPS outlines the percentage of renewable electricity that utilities, like BGE, must purchase. Maryland’s RPS renewable goals have steadily increased since in 2004. Today’s goal is 25 percent renewable energy by 2020. Environmental groups primarily mobilized previous efforts to urge lawmakers to keep upping Maryland’s clean energy goals.

Justice, Labor, Faith and Green Groups Unite

What’s different with the newly formed Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative is that it has a stronger focus on environmental justice. The coalition includes greater participation by faith leaders and groups supporting labor, women and minority rights.

Air pollution from coal-fired power plants and waste-to-energy incinerators (actually considered “renewable energy” in Maryland) coupled with climate change’s negative consequences, disproportionately fall on limited income households.

Lower income neighborhoods tend to be located near highways, incinerators, industrial areas and coal-fired power plants. With its harmful chemicals, odorless and colorless air pollution negatively impacts human health by increasing asthma, cancers, heart disease and premature death rates.

“I speak out because I believe that I am called, as all people of faith are called, to protect life in all its forms,” said Eugene Taylor Sutton, Episcopal Bishop of Maryland. “For too long, we have been getting our state’s energy from sources that are not healthy for people nor for our environment. We can do better than this for the sake of our children and their futures.”

Urging Green Energy Job Investment

Another ‘Forward With 50’ goal is to encourage serious government investment in green energy jobs, similar to CivicWorks’ Solar Training Job Program, with an emphasis on women and minority participation.

The rapidly growing solar industry offers family-sustaining careers in manufacturing-type jobs. Entry-level solar jobs do not require a high school degree and pay hourly wages that start at double to triple minimum wage levels.

Realistically Getting to Half Renewables

Just how our state gets to 50 percent renewable energy is pretty interesting.

Today, Maryland’s share of actual clean to dirty electricity flowing into the grid is only seven percent, while the 2017 RPS goal is 17 percent. Maryland’s RPS law gives utilities like BGE the option to plug the “actual to goal” gap with Renewable Energy Certificates (REC).

One REC is issued when one megawatt-hour (it’s a lot of energy) of electricity is delivered to the grid from a renewable energy resource like wind, solar, geothermal. RECs are a market-based financial lever that supports the transition from fossil-fueled to solar, wind, geothermal and other low polluting energy sources. Here’s a cool video that explains RECs.

Maryland’s General Assembly has been a U.S. climate leader by enacting laws that support locally generated offshore wind, community ‘offsite’ solar, rooftop solar and geothermal energy. Stanford University’s Solutions Project forecasts that Maryland’s energy mix could hit 100 percent renewable by 2050.

In anticipation of the 2018 Maryland General Assembly, the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative campaign will build its forces. If you belong to a congregation, or any group interested in joining the effort, sign on here and visit the web site to learn more.

As the chart below illustrates, it’s getting hotter in Maryland. “The time to act is now because we’re running out of time and things are stalled at the federal level,” said Brooke Harper, a policy director at Chesapeake Climate Action Network, a member of the Maryland Clean Energy Job Initiative.

 

According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it’s significantly hotter with greater yearly variation between high and low temps since 1895. Yes, the weather is now weird.

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Laurel Peltier
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Laurel Peltier

Laurel writes the environmental GreenLaurel column every other Thursday in the Baltimore Fishbowl. A graduate of UVA's MBA program, she spends her time with her family and making "all things green" interesting.
Laurel Peltier
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