A bill that would require more of Maryland’s energy to come from renewable sources is moving forward in the state Senate, after a failed attempt to defeat the bill in the House of Delegates.
The Senate Finance Committee approved the Clean Energy Jobs Act on Thursday on an 8-3 vote. Some senators expressed reservations about the possibility of the bill causing electricity bills to increase.
The night before, the House Economic Matters Committee voted 10-11 on a motion to defeat the bill. Twelve votes are needed in the 23-member committee for a motion to succeed. The bill currently on hold in that committee.
Environmental and clean energy advocates were relieved to see the bill clear the Senate committee.
“We’re excited to see the strong support in this committee for moving Maryland to 50 percent renewable energy,” said Josh Tulkin of the Sierra Club’s Maryland chapter.
Tulkin said the Senate’s move affords the House the “rare opportunity of a do-over” on its committee vote.
The bill requires that half of the state’s electricity must come from renewable sources — such as wind, solar and hydroelectric — by 2030. The current goal is 25 percent renewable energy by 2025. The bill also sets up a study to evaluate how to eventually get the state to 100 percent renewable energy.
Maryland’s 188 lawmakers go back to work Jan. 9 for their annual 90-day General Assembly session. Top issues include money for schools, legalizing sports betting and raising the minimum hourly wage in the state to $15.
As originally drafted, the bill would also have eliminated trash incineration as qualifying as renewable energy. But that was removed from the bill and included in a separate bill, as lawmakers are divided over whether waste-to-energy is a good policy.
An analysis from the state Department of Legislative Services estimated the average residential customer’s bill could increase by an average of $1.50 per month.
“Utility bills are going to skyrocket as a result of this,” said Sen. Stephen Hershey, an Eastern Shore Republican.
Sen. Delores Kelly, a Baltimore County Democrat who chairs the committee, said the climate change crisis means there is urgency to switch to more clean energy — even if it costs consumers a little bit more.
“We will all pay as ratepayers something more to make it happen, but I don’t really think we have a choice,” she said.
Sen. Ben Kramer, a Montgomery County Democrat, argued in favor of the bill.
“We have been subsidizing the fossil fuel industry for decades, and we are all paying the costs of the carbon emissions that we are choking on from the fossil fuel industry,” he said. “If we don’t take action, we are going to be behind what other states are doing.”