Super-solar RPS goes to Gov. Hogan’s desk

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As far back as communities of humans have existed in close proximity to one another, neighbors have competed and served as a gauge to one’s own success. Everybody has their own Ned Flanders forcing them to keep stepping up their game to be the best off on the block.

This is true not just on Main Street, but on State Circle, home of Maryland’s state legislature. In 2016, Washington D.C., Maryland’s most prestigious neighbor (sorry Delaware) passed a new renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requiring the District’s utility, PEPCO, to procure 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2032. Within this procurement requirement came the additional carveout that 5% of that renewable electricity come from solar sources.

It may have taken nearly three years, but Maryland has decided it is not to be outdone, as SB 516, dubbed the “Clean Energy Jobs Act”, has now passed both chambers of the state legislature, passing in the house less than three weeks after the senate approved it, by a vote of 95-40. SB 516 does not outpace D.C.’s race to 100% renewables, by requiring only half that much in a two-year-shorter timespan, but the bill triples the solar carveout, requiring that 15% of that 2030 figure come from solar resources.

That number, that 14.5% benchmark, is currently the most aggressive carveout for solar in any RPS policy known to pv magazine. For perspective, that number is over seven times the national average of electricity sourced from  solar, which was around 2.3-2.4% in 2018.

But, like in any step of the legislative process, this bill is not still without its challenges, though it is on its last one: Governor Larry Hogan (R). And it is not clear what Governor Hogan will do.

Hogan is well liked and quite popular in Maryland as a sort of “everyman” Republican who prides himself in his ability to become bipartisan. In fact, he’s one of the few prominent Republican politicians to address and warn of the dangers presented by climate change and he has supported both state and national policies to decarbonize electricity.

On the other hand, Hogan did veto a proposed RPS increase in 2017, though he cited that his issue with that legislation came from the cost of the bill. This new initiative, however has two economic factors working in its favor. Firstly, as Pari Kasotia, Vote Solar’s director for the mid-Atlantic region, relayed to pv magazine just a few short weeks ago, the cost-benefit analysis performed on the bill is more conducive to gaining Hogan’s support. More importantly, Vote Solar optimistically reports that the “Clean Energy Jobs Act” will create approximately 20,000 new solar jobs, as well as 5,700 development, manufacturing, and construction jobs through the other promoted renewable energy sources, namely offshore wind.

The reason this is good news is again twofold. In the past two years Maryland has experienced the loss of roughly 900 solar jobs, a pain which this bill will provide the remedy for. And going back to our old buddy Gov. Hogan, one of his stalwarts since his initial campaign in 2014 has been to “Change Maryland’s reputation as a state that is unfriendly to job creators.”

So, while the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes, the consistent desire by politicians for increased employment and the historical prevalence of keeping up with the Jones’ provide optimism that SB 516 could soon become law.

Correction: This article was corrected at 8:o5 AM on Wednesday April 10. The previous version mis-stated the bill number as SB 216 in some places and reported the carveout as 15%; the bill is SB 516 and the carveout is 14.5%. We regret the error.