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Maryland lawmakers push renewable energy boost, green jobs program

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun
As world leaders meet in Paris, Maryland lawmakers propose increasing renewable energy sources here.

Three influential Democratic lawmakers want to increase how much of Maryland's electricity comes from renewable sources, as well as spend $40 million on training for the "green jobs" they expect to be in higher demand.

Sen. Catherine Pugh, Del. Dereck Davis and Sen. Rich Madaleno announced Tuesday they will co-sponsor legislation to require 25 percent of the state's electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020, accelerating the state's current goal to reach 20 percent by 2022.

At the same time, they propose spending a $40 million pool of cash from an energy company settlement on job skills training, hoping to put people to work installing solar panels or improving the energy efficiency of buildings. 

"This is not a choice between addressing climate change and improving our economy," said Davis, chairman of the Economic Matters Committee and a Prince George's County lawmaker. "It's both."

The annoucnement came as world leaders are gathered in Paris this month to negotiate how to reverse the effects of climate change. 

Pugh, the Senate Majority Leader, called the proposal a way to encourage "meaningful jobs" that could support a family.  

Advocates estimate the switch would create 2,000 new jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of taking 563,000 cars off the road each year.

The higher percentage of renewable energy source for electricity, however, would come at a cost to rate payers. Since renewable energy can be more costly than coal-fired power plants, the switch would cost about 52 cents per rate payer per year, according to analysis by Sustainable Energy Advantage. Advocates commissioned that analysis last year when they last tried to speed up the state's renewable energy goals.

Davis said that the plan to increase renewable energy sources faltered last year because many complex issues take more than a year to get through the General Assembly. He said he was confident that the legislators could build on last year's discussions and get the measure passed.

Governor Larry Hogan's spokesman declined to comment on the proposal, which has not yet been drafted. 

Environment Secretary Benjamin H. Grumbles in October endorsed a related proposal to further curb greenhouse gas emissions since the state was on track to exceed a goal to reduce those. 

Hogan's administration last year did not recommend a way to spend the $40 million the state is expected to receive over the next five years from Dominion, an energy company based in Richmond, Va.

Dominion is required to pay Maryland $8 million per year over the next 5 years as a condition to build a natural gas export facility in Southern Maryland. The Public Service Commission, which set the condition, requires the money to be used to promote energy efficiency, curb climate-altering pollution and develop renewable energy. 

Environmentalists with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network also backed the proposal. which will have several other Democratic sponsors in the legislature.

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