Maryland eyes clean energy economy, considers additional reforms

Last week, Gov. O’Malley accepted a report that seeks to expand solar energy, promote electric-drive vehicles and adopt energy efficiency standards for home electronic devices, among other reforms. Produced by the Maryland Energy Administration, the Maryland Energy Outlook (MEO) report will supply objective policy support in helping the state achieve its clean energy goals, Gov. O’Malley said in a statement.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has enacted a number of clean energy and energy reduction laws in the last two years. Central to his administration’s green initiatives is the EmPOWER Maryland Act, which aims to reduce energy consumption 15 percent and add 100,000 new green jobs by 2015; reduce greenhouses gasses by 25 percent by 2020; and to more than doubled Maryland’s renewable portfolio standard, requiring electric suppliers to purchase 20 percent of their power from clean energy sources by 2022.

In December, Gov. O’Malley announced the start of four projects through the Generating Clean Horizons initiative, meant to spur large-scale, commercial renewable energy projects with the University System of Maryland. Awards were made for two 55 MW wind energy projects, one on-shore and one off-shore wind project, as well as a 13 MW solar project in Central Maryland and a 10 MW project in the western part of the state.

Last week, Gov. O’Malley accepted a report recommending further reforms that seek to expand solar energy production, promote electric-drive vehicles and adopt energy efficiency standards for home electronic devices, among other strategies. The Maryland Energy Outlook (MEO) report will supply objective policy support in helping the state achieve its clean energy goals, Gov. O’Malley said in a statement.

“Maryland, like many states, is on the cusp of an energy transformation, even during these difficult economic times,” he said. “At this critical juncture, we must objectively examine our State energy goals and assess our progress in achieving them, capitalizing on the opportunities these times offer us to create jobs and drive economic progress.”

Despite having made significant gains in shielding the state against widespread blackouts, incentivizing home energy makeovers, training green collar workers and setting up the state’s first commercial-scale wind and solar projects, the MEO report says more will be required to “create truly clean, affordable, and reliable energy for Maryland’s citizens.”

“The Maryland Energy Outlook builds on Maryland’s leading position in promoting cleaner, more reliable and more affordable energy and identifies additional steps we can take to accelerate our progress toward a green collar economy,” Maryland Energy Administration Director Malcolm Woolf said in a statement joining the report.

Specifically, the report says the state’s solar energy capabilities are underutilized and that more incentives need to be used to encourage sellers of residential or commercial property to disclose energy consumption levels. To promote the adoption of clean energy practices and the development of clean energy industries, the MEO suggests creating and extending several tax credits – for zero energy buildings, renewable energy production, combined heat and power (CHP) systems – as well as a new appliance efficiency standard.

The MEO also addresses transportation energy independence by recommending the state lead-by-example in greening their fleet vehicles. The report suggests launching pilot programs to integrate plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles and battery-electric vehicles so that residents, business and local governments may follow in the state’s footsteps. Earlier this summer, the state’s Department of General Services announced the creation of a database that would help the state monitor the use of energy in state-owned buildings. Managed by the DGS Office of Energy Performance and Conservation, the EmPOWER Maryland Utility Database will facilitate the collection and management of all the state’s utility data in order to control the consumption of utilities and manage the state’s reduction goals.

Additionally, the MEO report suggests increasing monetary support for the Commuter Connections program, which advocates for numerous commuting options such as teleworking, mass transit use, commuter buses, carpooling, alternative work schedule and bicycling. The program is currently being implemented in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. metro areas.

“We hope that the findings of the MEO will be taken under consideration during this legislative session and look forward to supporting Governor O’Malley’s continued vision and leadership towards a Smart, Green and Growing Maryland,” Director Woolf said.

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