Clean Jobs Bill could be costly

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) ve­toed the Clean En­ergy Jobs Act of 2016. How­ever, the Mary­land leg­is­la­ture has re­cently over­rid­den this veto and the state is on its way to 25 per­cent re­new­able en­ergy by 2020. Al­though the de­sire for clean re­new­able en­ergy is ad­mirable, the growth to 25 per­cent in only three years would be an ex­tra­or­di­nary ac­com­plish­ment, and pos­si­bly a costly one.

The Clean En­ergy Jobs Act al­lows util­i­ties to pur­chase clean power else­where or gen­er­ate their own or some com­bi­na­tion thereof. Large scale sources of clean power are wind, so­lar and hy­dro­elec­tric. No­body is build­ing hy­dro­elec­tric dams th­ese days, so the only vi­able al­ter­na­tives are to buy or gen­er­ate so­lar and/or wind power.

Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Mary­land pro­duced about 3,000 thou­sand Mega Watt hours (MWh) of elec­tric power in Oc­to­ber 2016 of which only 5.7 per­cent was from re­new­able sources. The goal of 25 per­cent equates to ap­prox­i­mately 591 thou­sand Mega Watt hours ad­di­tional per month. Cost es­ti­mates can be made by com­par­i­son with re­cently con­structed clean power fa­cil­i­ties.

In 2012, South­ern Mary­land Elec­tric Co­op­er­a­tive (SMECO) be­gan op­er­a­tion of a 5.5 Mega Watt, 33-acre so­lar fa­cil­ity with a construction cost of about $20 mil­lion on prop­erty al­ready owned by SMECO in Hugh­esville. So­lar power pro­duced in Hugh­esville in the year 2013 to­taled 9,200 MWh, or on av­er­age 767 MWh per month. Scal­ing th­ese SMECO fa­cil­ity num­bers up to the 25 per­cent goal, an ad­di­tional 25,000 acres of so­lar farm are re­quired with an approximate construction cost of $15 bil­lion (pre­sum­ing all the ad­di­tion clean power is by so­lar).

An al­ter­na­tive to so­lar, wind tur­bines of com­mer­cial scale pro­duce about 2 MW of power, are about 400 feet tall and need about 2 acres of ground each. The Al­le­gheny Ridge Wind Farm in Penn­syl­va­nia is a good ex­am­ple of such. Th­ese type of units cost $3-4 mil­lion each for in­stal­la­tion. To meet the 2020 goal, ap­prox­i­mately 1,368 large wind tur­bines are re­quired at a construction cost of about $4.8 bil­lion.

Should Mary­land util­ity com­pa­nies de­cide to con­struct their own new clean power sources within Mary­land, ex­pected construction costs could range well up into the bil­lions. Fur­ther, if the in­creas­ing de­mand for clean power ne­ces­si­tates that non-Mary­land sup­pli­ers to Mary­land util­i­ties con­struct new fa­cil­i­ties then those costs will even­tu­ally be passed to Mary­land con­sumers as well. The Clean En­ergy Jobs Act re­quires a huge in­vest­ment, whether it be by tax­pay­ers or util­ity com­pa­nies (and sub­se­quently their cus­tomers). It is un­cer­tain how this start-up fund­ing would be ac­crued. Would it be through a large gov­ern­ment grant, or amor­tized over long term and added to cus­tomer bills, or com­bi­na­tion of both or some­thing else? In any case, Mary­lan­ders should be pre­pared for sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in cost of elec­tric­ity.

J.R. Cur­tis, La Plata

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.