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Maryland General Assembly approves 50 percent renewable energy target for 2030

Maryland lawmakers approved a dramatic investment in renewable energy in the final hours of the 2019 General Assembly session, passing a measure mandating that half the state’s electricity supply come from renewable sources by 2030.

The proposal appeared doomed as recently as two weeks ago, languishing in the House of Delegates until lawmakers revised it to preserve subsidies for the waste-to-energy industry. Senators had voted earlier in the session to stop subsidizing trash incineration as green energy.

Supporters say the legislation will stem a downturn in solar industry jobs in the state, and could also boost wind farms and other alternative energy development. It requires utilities across the state to subsidize solar and wind farms, as well as trash incinerators, hydroelectric dams and paper mills powered with a substance known as black liquor.

“This bill now makes Maryland a true national leader in the fight against climate change and in favor of clean energy,” Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said in a statement.

But critics say the program supports polluting industry, and sends investment from Maryland ratepayers to projects in other states. Except for solar generation, renewable energy projects don’t have to be located in Maryland to receive the subsidies.

“This will not create jobs for the state of Maryland. This will create jobs for Illinois and Ohio,” said Sen. Stephen Hershey, an Eastern Shore Republican.

Other Senate Republicans criticized Democrats for deferring to the House when it came to supporting subsidies for trash incinerators. During earlier debate, lawmakers cited Baltimore Sun reporting on a city trash incinerator that receives renewable energy subsidies while being Baltimore’s largest single source of industrial pollution.

“I can’t vote for this,” said Sen. Chris West, a Baltimore County Republican. “We have to take the incinerators out.”

The legislation heads to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan for his consideration. Hogan vetoed a similar bill in 2016. Democrats overrode that veto to set the state’s current renewable energy goal of 25% of the state’s electricity supply.

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