As solar costs are falling faster than wind, it is generally assumed that solar will play a larger role in the market to fill state-level renewable energy mandates.
But Maryland isn’t taking any chances on that, and today the state’s Senate passed a bill to increase the portion of electricity that utilities must source from renewable energy to 50% by 2030, including 14.5% from solar by 2028. This would be an extension of the state’s current mandate of 25% by 2020.
This is the largest carve-out for solar by that date seen by pv magazine, even if you could the volume of solar supported by the combination of Massachusetts’ SREC 1 and 2 and SMART programs – although the conclusion of SMART will come well before 2028.
SB 516 will also mandate that part of the 50% is met with at least 800 MW of offshore wind, and allows regulators to increase this number. However, unlike the renewable energy mandate set recently in Washington D.C., there is no particular requirement that any amount of this be distributed, small-scale solar.
This acceleration of the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) was inserted as an amendment into SB 516, which focuses on clean energy jobs, and particularly the dedication of money from the state’s Strategic Energy Investment Fund to small, minority and women-owned businesses.
The road ahead
The bill follows on the dismal failure of a similar 50% by 2030 renewable energy mandate a year ago, and must still pass the House and get the signature of Governor Larry Hogan (R).
Pari Kasotia, Vote Solar’s director for the mid-Atlantic region, notes that the House may be difficult as that there is some debate over whether or not to include waste-to-energy among qualifying renewables. “There is a lot of tension on the House side around this bill,” Kasotia told pv magazine.
And then there is Governor Hogan. Hogan is one of the rare Republican politicians to speak openly about the danger that climate change presents, and has split from his party in supporting policies to decarbonize the economy of his state and the nation. However, he also vetoed an RPS increase in 2017.
Kasotia says that Governor Hogan had initially expressed concerns about the cost of the bill, however she says that the cost-benefit analysis performed on the bill should put his fears to rest.
And while renewable energy bills have struggled in the past, 2019 is a different year. The movement to mandate the decarbonization of electricity has gained substantial steam following the 2018 elections. SB 516 follows on legislators in Washington D.C., New Mexico and Puerto Rico approving 100% zero-carbon and/or renewable energy mandates.
In fact, if anything SB 516 is as strong as some of these bills, given that New Mexico’s pending legislation is also requiring 50% renewable energy by 2030.
Correction: This article was corrected at 8:35 AM on Friday March 22. The previous version mis-stated the bill number as SB 519 in some places; the bill is SB 516. We regret the error.