Maryland plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions focuses on renewables, efficiency

Maryland continues to work on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, strengthening most of the programs already in place, such as the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS),with new technologies and “forward-thinking” policies over the next seven years, Gov. Martin O’Malley said on July 25.

During his speech on the release of the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan at a climate change summit, O’Malley noted that in some areas, Maryland is making “real and measurable progress and in other areas, we’re falling short.”

For example, the state has increased the percentage of electricity that it produces from renewable sources by nearly 40% since 2007.

“We have grown our solar power sector from being virtually non-existent just about eight or nine years ago, into an industry now that employs 2,000 Marylanders and is estimated to create 10,000 more jobs in the short years ahead,” O’Malley added.

Maryland has also decreased peak energy demand by nearly 11% and consumption by more than 9%, he said.

“[W]e’ve partnered with 35 local governments throughout our state … to promote energy efficiency, renewable energy and transportation petroleum reduction at the local level, but so far, we are falling short of our goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020,” he said.

So far, the state has achieved only a 5% reduction. At the current pace, he added, Maryland will fall short and instead of a 25% reduction, it would come in roughly around a 17% reduction.

To close that gap, “We propose that we advance cleaner, greener energy by raising once again our renewable portfolio standard,” O’Malley said, adding, “Today, our RPS goal is 20% and … if we did nothing more, we are likely to come very close to roughly around 18% by 2020, perhaps even hit that 20% goal by 2022.”

There is every reasonable hope to believe that by raising this new goal to 25%, the state can achieve that and make up the big chunk of that gap when it comes to GHG reductions.

According to the plan, currently, Maryland’s RPS requires 18% of energy consumed in the state to come from qualified resources in 2020 and 20% by 2022. If the RPS were accelerated to require 25% of energy consumed in the state to come from low-carbon sources by 2020, additional GHG reduction benefits would be realized. In this scenario, the plan added, the number of renewable energy credits (RECs) would increase by nearly 40% and the profile of RECs would be lower in carbon than the current policy.

O’Malley said, “We need to work together to actually exceed the EmPOWER Maryland goal and saving families money on their electric bills while also reducing per capita electricity consumption and peak load demand.”

According to the governor’s July 25 statement, the EmPOWER Maryland program is designed to reduce Maryland’s per capita total electricity consumption and peak load demand by 15% by 2015, and includes many state- and utility-managed energy efficiency and conservation programs.

“[T]he Maryland Energy Administration is working with our utilities and other stakeholders to learn from the things that some other states, frankly, who are ahead of us on this score, have been able to do in order to save their … citizens money and also reduce electricity consumption more quickly, frankly, than we have been able,” O’Malley said during his speech. “We are a leader, but we can still learn from those that are doing even better than we are.”

Maryland will also make good on the agreement it made with other states through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to lower the cap from 165 million tons of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere down to 91 million tons.

Additionally, Maryland will take further action to double Maryland’s transit ridership by 2020. To encourage transit-oriented development, O’Malley has signed an executive order instructing state agencies to put new facilities near transit stations.

The state is also implementing an adaptation strategy to make it more resilient and prepared for the likelihood of climate-related weather events. As part of that strategy, he signed an executive order last year directing new and reconstructed state structures to be planned and constructed in a manner that avoids or minimizes future flood damage. “This also could be an area where, frankly, we need to do some more work in next year’s General Assembly,” O’Malley added.

Furthermore, Maryland is working toward becoming a zero-waste state, he said.

“[W]e will work to advance strategies like compost and greater recycling and the good news is … we actually have one of the higher recycling rates already compared to the other 50 states, so we start from a very good base,” he said.

According to the plan, Maryland’s long-term strategy aims for an 85% reduction in the generation of solid waste by 2030.

Near-term 2013-2014 initiatives include developing food scrap composting facilities, the plan said, noting that food scraps and yard trimmings comprise about 27.28% of the waste stream.

According to the statement, the enhancements included in the plan will result in a 55 million metric ton reduction in GHG emissions and about $1.6bn in economic benefits. Also, the plan will support more than 37,000 jobs.

“[C]limate disruption is real and it is not an ideological issue any more than gravity is,” O’Malley said in his speech. “It is physics, pure and simple. But our response to it is complex. No state can escape the urgent responsibility of this moment.”

Noting that “facts are facts,” he said the carbon content of the atmosphere is higher now than it has been at any time in 3 million years and nationally, 12 of the hottest years on record have occurred in the last 15 years.

Among other things, O’Malley said the state has partnered with community colleges and partners in labor to help citizens attain the needed job skills, has advanced electric vehicle technology and has reformed its tax code to better incentivize green building and sustainable redevelopment. Additionally, the state has advanced solar energy as well as onshore and offshore wind energy, and “raised our renewable portfolio standard at times when other states have actually been lowering their standards.”

Concluding, O’Malley said: “We have a planet to save and we have jobs to create. We need, as a people, to create greater opportunities to work and earn a decent living and what we stand for is what we stand on.”

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3112 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.