Maryland needs renewable energy

The real risk for Maryland? Doing nothing to encourage zero emissions energy

I respectfully disagree with Alex Pavlak's commentary, "A low-risk path to sustainable Maryland electricity" Dec. 14.

Mr. Pavlak assumes that we have "20 years or 80 years" to get to zero carbon emissions. Maryland has many miles of tidal shoreline. With sea level rising at an accelerating rate as a result of warming seas and melting glaciers, we are ever more vulnerable to storm surges. Last year was the warmest on record, but 2016 will be warmer still. We can hardly afford to procrastinate.

Mr. Pavlak compares the past experience of Ontario in reducing their carbon emissions by 80 percent with a much more modest Maryland goal of reducing emissions by increasing our Renewable Portfolio Standard to 25 percent by 2020. The standard incentivizes renewable energy.

Mr. Pavlak raised a concern about the intermittent nature of wind and solar resources when they power a bigger fraction electric grid. However, utility-scale energy storage will blunt those peaks and troughs. Navagant Research predicts that annual installations of utility-scale energy storage will increase 30-fold in capacity between 2016 and 2025. In addition, Maryland utilities employ demand management to address power shortages.

Mr. Pavlak's op-ed did not mention that reducing fossil fuel usage not only reduces climate pollution but also reduces health-harming air pollution (nitrogen and sulfur oxides, particulates, etc.).

The rapidly decreasing costs of solar and wind and energy-saving technologies like LED lighting should allay Mr. Pavlak's worry about ratepayer impact. The Renewable Portfolio Standard requires utilities to deploy renewable technologies or purchase renewable energy credits. It's instructive to note that the cost of solar renewable energy credits decreased from over $160 to about $20 in a little over one year.

The question is not whether we can resolve the challenge of climate change but whether we have the will to transition to a 21st Century energy economy of more good jobs, stronger businesses, and cleaner air. The Maryland General assembly should override the governor's veto of the Clean Jobs Energy Bill of 2016.

Richard Reis, Silver Spring

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