Clean energy jobs veto overridden
Southern Maryland utility rates to increase
ANNAPOLIS — The state Sen- ate voted Thursday morning to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) 2016 veto of the Clean Energy Jobs bill, 32-13, after the House voted 85-51 two days earlier to override the measure.
This law, dubbed the “sunshine tax” by Hogan, will change the requirement for renewable energy sources in Maryland’s electricity supply from 20 percent by the year 2022 to 25 per- cent by the year 2020.
“This legislation is a tax in- crease that will be levied upon every single electricity ratepayer in Maryland and, for that reason alone, I cannot allow it to become law,” Hogan said in a veto letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert, Charles, Prince George’s) on May 27 last year.
The governor wrote that the percentage increase is laudable, but increasing taxes is not the correct approach.
In step with the governor in opposition to the bill is Del. Mark Fisher (R-Calvert). “Each citi- zen of Southern Maryland can already, if they so choose, install solar panels on their home. This is a personal decision. HB 1106 however, forces SMECO to purchase electricity from the most expensive producers. Ratepayers are going to be blindsided when they open their electricity bill,” explained Fisher in a newsletter to constituents.
According to SMECO spokesman Tom Dennison, since
Maryland’s renewable port- folio standard (RPS) — a regulation that requires the increased production of energy from renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar — was enacted in 2004, SMECO has remained consistent in warning that increasing the percentages and establish- ing “carve-outs” within the RPS come with a cost. As an electric cooperative, power costs are passed through — without markup — to the utility’s customer-members.
“The additional require- ments specified in HB 1106 will lead to higher power costs and higher bills for our customer-members. The annual cost impact out- lined in this bill would result in a 24 percent increase over current residential customer costs. An average residential customer who uses 1250 kilowatt hours per month currently pays $45.93 per year on RPS compliance. The new RPS mandate will mean custom- ers will pay $56.77 per year,” said Dennison in a written statement to The Calvert Recorder.
Dennison said SMECO is proud of its record in sup- porting solar development in Southern Maryland. “We have and will continue to in- vest in solar projects in the most cost-efficient manner to ensure we meet this new mandate and deliver the best value for our custom- er-members.” SMECO has well over 32,000 customers in Calvert County.
Baltimore Gas and Elec- tric also services Calvert County, with roughly 7,800 customers primarily in North Beach and Chesa- peake Beach.
“While BGE didn’t take a position on the current revisions, the company has been a longtime supporter of clean energy and will im- plement the revised require- ment in our procurement of power for our customers,” said Justin Mulcahy, senior communications specialist for BGE, in a written state- ment.
At this time, Mulcahy does not know what percentage of increase BGE customers should expect now that the bill has become law.
Multiple environmental groups in the region have supported the legislation, saying it would help the en- vironment and the economy.
James McGarry, Mary- land and Washington, D.C., policy director for Chesapeake Climate Action Net- work, said to call the bill a tax is a misnomer, arguing it is rather a requirement that the state should uphold.
“With the override, Mary- land will increase its com- mitment to clean energy,” McGarry told the Univer- sity of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “It will not only stimulate energy, but also create jobs and have enormous health benefits.”
“There is support across party lines, rural, suburban areas,” McGarry said. “It’s clear this isn’t a partisan issue.”
But Del. Kathy Szeliga (R-Harford, Baltimore) said in a press release, “Working families and retirees cannot afford to foot the bill for the lofty goals of the Democrats in Annapolis. This is one more reason for grandma and grandpa to move to Florida and have more than enough savings to fly up to Maryland to visit the grand- kids.”
A Department of Legis- lative Services 2016 fiscal analysis of the bill reports the state anticipates an “increase of between $0.08 (per megawatt-hour) to $0.32 (per megawatt-hour) in 2017,” where the average residential customer uses about one megawatt-hour per month.
Still, Karla Raettig, exec- utive director of the Mary- land League of Conserva- tion Voters, said, “Poll after poll, Marylanders are willing to invest in the future of clean energy.” Raettig called the bill a job creator with benefits to the environment and the economy.
Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery) referenced a 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report that states there are 7,279 solar jobs in Maryland.
Maryland saw a 42 percent increase in solar jobs in the past year and could see about a thousand new solar jobs each year going forward, according to Feldman. He said the jobs created are high-paying jobs that don’t require a college degree.
Sen. James Rosapepe (D-Prince George’s, Anne Arundel) called the jobs produced from collecting renewable energy the “blue collar jobs of the 21st century.” He compared oil in Texas and coal in West Virginia to renewable energy in Maryland.
Miller said the override of the governor’s veto shows the environment is very important to Maryland and the legislation is moving the state in a progressive direction.
After both chambers’ votes, the bill will become law in 30 days.