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Maryland needs more wind and solar power

Letter writer Jamie DeMarco (“Renewable energy plan is working in Md.,” March 7) notes that of the renewable energy credits (RECs) that have been given to facilities built after the Renewable Portfolio Standard was created, “95 percent have gone to wind and solar.” This statement has been echoed several times — including by some of our legislators — in support of the initiative to expand our current RPS mechanism to 50 percent by 2030. However, the data in our Public Service Commission’s 2018 report on the RPS don’t make the path we’re on look so rosy.

In the latest year with data available (2016), wind (mostly from Illinois, North Dakota and Pennsylvania) made up less than one-third of the 15.2 percent of the total energy we used that was required to be associated with RECs. That means less than 4 percent of our total energy was from wind. The RPS solar REC requirement was 0.7 percent of our total energy. That adds up to less than 5 percent of our total energy from wind and solar, more than a decade since Maryland’s RPS was created. Not exactly “tremendous expansion of wind and solar energy.”

The 2.75 million RECs attributed to wind and solar in 2016 — the biggest year for both wind and solar since the RPS was created — made up 30 percent of that year’s RECs. With wind and solar representing almost all RECs from “facilities built after the Renewable Portfolio Standard was created,” then the other almost 70 percent are coming from facilities built before 2004. For example: the largest number of RECs for small hydroelectric went to dams in Pennsylvania that were built between 1901 and 1989; the largest number of RECs for Black Liquor (a toxic by-product of paper manufacture) went to Virginia’s West Point Paper Mill, which opened in 1914. (Our own Luke Mill, which also gets RECs, opened in 1888.) Marylanders’ added cost of RECs is largely providing extra revenue to energy sources that already existed, rather than building mostly new clean energy.

This is yet another problem with our present approach. The PSC report also documents that under our present RPS, much “renewable energy” we’re subsidizing isn’t clean: we support the combustion of Black Liquor, trash incineration, wood and wood products, all of which generate carbon pollution that drives climate change, plus other pollutants. After a decade, we have only a small amount of wind and solar in our energy mix. And, most of the credits we’re paying for come from outside the state, not building jobs and industries in Maryland.These are the reasons that Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility opposes expanding the present RPS mechanism. Instead, we support the 100% Clean Renewable Energy and Equity Act, which will put our state on the pathway to using only non-carbon-producing renewable energy sources by 2035, with most of the industry and job growth here in Maryland. It’s the only way to deal with the climate change that is beginning to ravage our state.

Dr. Alfred Bartlett, Chevy Chase

The author is a member of the board of Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.

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