Activists waded into Baltimore's harbor Friday to launch a campaign for an increase Maryland's commitment to "clean" electricity from wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy.
Leaders of the environmental, labor and other groups stood hip-deep at Canton Waterfront Park to dramatize the threat that rising sea level from climate change poses to coastal communities like Baltmore.
A broad coalition, including religious, public health and businesses groups, has formed to press Maryland lawmakers to double the state's mandated goal of getting 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2022. Their goal: 40 percent by 2025.
Only about 8 percent of the electricity generated in Maryland now comes from renewable sources, with the bulk of that attributable to hydropower. Of the rest, 44 percent comes from coal, 40 percent from nuclear and nearly 8 percent comes from natural gas.
Speakers argued that increasing the state's share of electricity from wind, solar and other non-fossil fuel sources will reduce harmful air pollution and produce jobs.
The state's renewable power law requires suppliers of electricity to gradually increase the share they get from wind, solar and other sources that don't involve burning climate-altering fossil fuels.
Companies that don't meet the requirement have to pay a penalty, but so far none has fallen short, according to James McGarry of Chesapeake Climate Action Network. That's because the law allows electricity suppliers to get credit for subsidizing wind, solar and other renewable power projects in other states in the region.
Even though Maryland is less than halfway toward its 20 percent renewable-power goal, McGarry said advocates are confident the state can do much better. Costs of wind and solar energy generation have fallen sharply, he said, and projects are being built at a pace that assures the state will exceed its current target.
An O'Malley administration plan to reduce Maryland's climate-altering emissions of carbon dioxide already calls for an increase in the renewable power goal to 25 percent by 2020, McGarry pointed out. The 40 percent target advocates now seek is a "reasonable exetension" of that goal, he added.