Maryland solar advocates call for veto override

Clean energy advocates, including some of the state’s prominent solar-installation firms, gathered on the Maryland statehouse steps on Thursday to encourage the legislature to override Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2016.

Clean energy advocates, including some of the state’s prominent solar-installation firms, gathered on the Maryland statehouse steps on Thursday to encourage the legislature to override Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2016.

The override would clear the way for Maryland to continue advancing its energy infrastructure, job growth and savings. It would increase the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) 5% (from 20 to 25%) and a one-half of 1% rise in the solar carve-out portion of the bill (which would rise to 2.5% from its current level of 2%).

After passing with overwhelming majorities in both houses of the state legislature, most observers believed the law was a done deal – but in a move that surprised almost everyone, Hogan vetoed the bill, calling it a tax increase that would be excessively burdensome to all ratepayers.

Though the legislature is firmly in the hands of state Democrats, no one is taking an override for granted – least of all the two sponsors of the bill: State Senator Brian Feldman and House Delegate C. William Frick.

The two men led Thursday’s rally and spoke harshly of Hogan’s opposition, tying it to President-elect Donald J. Trump’s Climate Change denial and anti-renewable Cabinet appointments.

But Tony Clifford, chief development officer for Rockville, Md., based Standard Solar, warned against turning the override into a purely partisan endeavor.

“While I welcome the expansion of the RPS that a veto override would create, continued growth of the Maryland solar industry will also require a more fundamental look at solar’s legislative framework,” said Clifford, whose President and CEO Scott Wiater started lobbying for the override in mid-December.

With the solar industry’s demonstrated ability to add energy infrastructure and create good jobs, I hope this can be accomplished in a bipartisan manner,” he added.

According to Clifford, the solar industry has made a significant contribution to the energy infrastructure of Maryland in the past several years. Indeed, with nearly 700 MW of solar installed, the industry has added the equivalent of more than two natural gas peaker plants.