As we enter the 2019 legislative session, Maryland is poised to become a national hub for the new clean energy economy. By passing the proposed Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act, or “MCEJA,” in 2019, Maryland will see tens of thousands of new jobs created and billions of dollars invested in our state. More importantly, we can establish unique infrastructure and a skilled workforce that can serve the growing clean energy industry nationally.
This is nothing new. Already our solar industry employs over 5,000 Marylanders — more than Maryland’s crab industry — paying average wages of over $18 per hour. And Maryland’s nation-leading offshore wind program is already delivering on its pledges to invest over $1.8 billion in the state and create nearly 5,000 new jobs.
Now is the time to firmly establish Maryland’s position as a powerhouse in the clean energy economy, and MCEJA does that. It sets the stage for a decade of growth in Maryland’s solar industry and will help anchor the nation’s offshore wind industry. This represents a unique economic opportunity for Marylanders.
In April 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the two fastest growing occupations in the U.S. were in installing solar panels and servicing wind turbines. In the same month, a report commissioned by the Maryland Public Service Commission concluded that continued growth of solar power in Maryland offers billions of dollars in wages, economic benefits and local tax revenue as well as tens of thousands of new jobs across the state. Further analysis prepared by the state’s Power Plant Research Program, or “PPRP,” indicated that the in-state solar additions called for in MCEJA would contribute hundreds of millions of dollars in annual economic benefits to the state. And a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that by 2030 the U.S. offshore wind industry will employ approximately 40,000 Americans on the East Coast alone. By passing MCEJA now, Maryland will be in position to capture many of these green jobs.
Opponents of renewable energy point to PPRP’s ongoing study of Maryland’s existing Renewable Portfolio Standard, or “RPS,” as an excuse to delay passage of MCEJA. But delay will harm Maryland’s economy, both now and for years to come. Our RPS is approaching its final year, and without assurance of stable policy and an ongoing market, renewable energy companies cannot invest in or create jobs in Maryland. Additionally, federal tax credits are scheduled to expire, leaving billions of dollars on the table if we fail to act. Maryland’s leaders must recognize this delay tactic for what it is: an effort to preserve the unsustainable status quo to the detriment of our economy.
The good news is that we can rise to this challenge, both technically and politically. PPRP’s interim RPS study report, released this week, found that Maryland can meet the goal of doubling its renewable electricity production to 50 percent by 2030. A super-majority of Maryland’s General Assembly has pledged to support passage of the MCEJA in 2019, and Marylanders should hold their elected officials to their word. Nearby states New Jersey and New York, along with D.C., are already implementing 50 percent renewable goals while Virginia’s Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic governor passed a law to add 5,000 megawatts of new wind and solar projects.
Highlighting the urgent need for action, an October 2018 report from the United Nations scientific panel on climate change provided the strongest warning yet of the catastrophic consequences of our addiction to fossil fuels. And last month, 13 federal agencies released a 1,600-page report estimating that climate change will shrink the U.S. economy by 10 percent, twice the damage caused by the Great Recession.
Maryland’s leaders must answer the urgent call to action to fight climate change and seize the opportunity to expand jobs, investment and tax revenue for the benefit of all Marylanders by passing the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act in the upcoming legislative session.
Brian Feldman (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Democrat representing Montgomery County in the Maryland State Senate. Cheryl Glenn (email@example.com) is a Democrat representing Baltimore City in the Maryland House of Delegates