Clean en­ergy jobs veto over­rid­den

South­ern Mary­land util­ity rates to in­crease

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By CARA NEW­COMER Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice and TA­MARA WARD tward@somd­

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.

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