Maryland’s Economy Could Profit From Renewable Energy

Special to the Chronicle

Diversifying sources of electricity by supporting renewable energy will stabilize consumer costs, says MaryPIRG.
Not counting its solar resources, Maryland has the potential to meet 18% of the state’s electrcity needs from renewable sources of energy—enough to power 900,000 homes, according to a new report released today by the Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG).

“Generating Solutions: How Clean, Renewable Energy is Boosting Local Economies and Saving Consumers Money” shows that a national standard increasing the use of renewable energy to 20 percent of the U.S. electricity supply by 2020 would benefit both the economy and environment.

“The good news is that renewable energy is coming online in Maryland. The bad news is that more than 95% of our electricity still comes from fossil fuels and nuclear power,” said Gigi Kellett, MaryPIRG’s public interest advocate.

Pointing to recent price spikes in the natural gas market, MaryPIRG urged Maryland elected officials, Congress and the Bush administration to take steps to protect consumers from future price fluctuations, pointing out that increasing the percentage of electricity generated by renewable energy could save consumers money in the long run by reducing the demand for natural gas. “By diversifying the electricity mix to include renewable energy, consumers would have alternative choices when prices rise, rather than being held captive by the whims of a volatile fossil fuel market,” said Ms. Kellett.

The MaryPIRG report cited examples of ways Maryland currently uses renewable energy, including Choptank Elementary School’s project that uses geothermal energy for all of its heating and cooling needs.

“The House has passed an energy bill that will take us backward and the Senate is expected to vote on its energy bill in May. Fortunately, six of our eight representatives voted against an energy bill that is bad for the environment and bad for consumers,” said Ms. Kellett. “Neither piece of legislation includes a national renewable energy standard that would boost production of electricity from clean renewable resources.”

MaryPIRG made the following policy recommendations in its report:

“Maryland has good wind resources that can bring local jobs, tax revenues and investment to Maryland's rural counties, said Kevin Rackstraw of Clipper Windpower, Inc. “Policies such as the federal Production Tax Credit and a state or federal Renewable Portfolio Standard will be key to achieving hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in wind plants in Maryland's rural areas.”

“Wind energy's major policy support, the federal Production Tax Credit, is in danger of being cut at the same time that tens of billions of dollars of federal subsidies are being readied for oil, gas and nuclear energy development,” he continued.

"While Maryland is leading the way and generating solutions, Congress is considering legislation that would make our energy problems worse. We urge Senator Mikulski and Senator Sarbanes to put America’s technological know-how to work to replicate these successes across the country," concluded Ms. Kellett.

MaryPIRG, a statewide nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer and environmental advocacy organization, has over 5,000 members across the state and a student chapter at the University of Maryland, College Park.

To see the entire MaryPIRG report, visit: marypirg.org

MaryPIRG’s main office is at 3121 Saint Paul St., Suite 26, Baltimore, MD 21218; P: (410) 467-0439.

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This story was published on May 13, 2003.