Dive Brief:

  • Maryland is poised to expand its renewable portfolio standard, but the extent of the expansion will depend on which of two bills makes it through the legislature.
  • The Clean Renewable Energy and Equity Act would put Maryland on track to source 100% of its energy from renewable resources by 2035.
  • The Clean Energy and Jobs Act would expand the state’s existing 25% RPS target to 50% by 2030.

The more ambitious of the two bills under consideration in Maryland, the Clean Renewable Energy and Equity Act, sponsored by Delegate Shane Robinson (D), aims not only to make Maryland one of the few states to adopt a 100% RPS, but also seeks to fix what advocates see as a flaw in the state’s existing RPS standard. The existing standard views burning trash and farm-produced methane as renewable energy.

The opposing bill would expand the state’s 25% RPS to a 50% by 2030 target and would continue giving credit for generation sources such as incineration.

The difference between the two approaches has become a charged issue in Maryland, even a racial issue. In an opinion piece in The Washington Post, Gerald Stansbury, president of the NAACP’s Maryland State Conference, argued in favor of expanding the state’s current 25% RPS to 50%, calling it a move toward climate justice. He cited a 2013 MIT study that found that Baltimore had the highest rate of deaths from pollution among 5,695 U.S. cities.

But for some, the doubling of the state’s RPS does not go far enough. In anop-ed in the Baltimore Sun, Dr. Gina Angiola and Tim Whitehouse of the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, backed the more aggressive 100% standard, arguing that the current RPS standard subsidizes polluting sources of generation such as burning of garbage and wood waste.

But not all environmental advocates are on the same page. “We agree with the Clean Renewable Energy and Equity Act’s goals, but it is not our goal,” Denise Robbins, communications director, with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, told Utility Dive.

The Clean Energy and Jobs Act would improve what exists and is the more “achievable policy” at this point, Robbins. She also added that states usually overshoot their RPS targets, so the 50% standard would likely be exceeded.

Robbins also said that the Clean Energy and Jobs Act is also the more practical option. “We have the votes” to pass the Clean Energy and Jobs Act, Robbins said.

The previous iteration of the bill, with the 25% RPS, was only passed into law last February after Democratic lawmakers were able to rally andovercome Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) veto.

“We think the 50% RPS faces more favorable passage in the Democrat heavy legislature, provided lawmakers can move quickly,” Timothy Fox, vice president at ClearView Energy Partners, told Utility Dive. He noted that the Maryland Legislature is scheduled to adjourn on April 9, which provides “sufficient but not extensive” time for lawmakers to pass the legislation this year.

The Legislature could override a veto again, Fox said, but the fact that Hogan vetoed a modest increase in the state’s RPS from 20% to 25% suggests a more ambitious 100% RPS could be a “heavier lift.”