Attendees Glimpse Maryland’s Clean Energy Future at #MACoCon

From L to R: Greg Snook, Ben Grumbles, Kristen Harbeson, & John Olszewski

The “Clean and Green: Charting Maryland’s Energy Future” panel at the MACo 2019 December Winter Conference discussed how Maryland’s energy paradigm is shifting away from fossil fuels and towards renewable (solar and wind) and zero-carbon (nuclear and hydro) power sources. Panelists explained the state anad local land use, regulatory, and infrastructure changes that are coming as Maryland moves towards a renewable and clean energy future. The panel was held on December 5.

Maryland Secretary of the Environment Ben Grumbles stated that “Energy and environment go together” and that Maryland’s energy future will be “cleaner, greener, and more homegrown.” Grumbles also outlined Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s Clean and Renewable Energy Standard (CARES), which calls for Maryland to use 100% clean energy by 2040. Grumbles noted the focus is on renewables and incentives for deploying additional clean energy technologies and the Hogan Administration is in the final stretch of developing recommendations for the General Assembly. Key parts of the proposal include using: (1) existing nuclear; (2) modular nuclear; (3) combined heat and power; (4) carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and storage for natural gas plants; (5) carbon sequestration through healthy soil and tree capture; and (6) large hydropower, so long as there are strong environmental safeguards.

Task Force on Renewable Energy Development and Siting Chair and President/CEO of the Hagerstown/Washington County Industrial Foundation Gregory Snook discussed the work of the Task Force. Snook noted that the pending preliminary recommendations on solar siting are consensus based and respect local government authority. Snook noted the Task Force’s preliminary report will be publicly available in about 2 weeks. Snook noted that the preliminary recommendations seek to: (1) aid development in desired locations; (2) maximize utilization on rooftops and parking lots; (3) maximize use of commercial, industrial, residential, and government-owned properties; (4) minimize use of agricultural land; and (5) work with public utilities to create grid connections near desired solar sites. Snook also noted that the Task Force is recommending that affected counties and municipalities automatically be considered as “interested parties” during the Public Service Commission energy generation project review process.

Maryland League of Conservation Voters Political Director Kristen Harbeson summarized the positions of the environmental community. Harbeson argued that we “must be ambitious and rise to the challenge of the moment.” While expressing disappointment about the delayed release of the state’s draft Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (GRRA) plan, Harbeson was hopeful about the upcoming public meetings on the plan and looking forward to hearing more about the CARES proposal. Harbeson outlined upcoming environmental energy initiatives for the 2020 Session, including: (1) moving to net zero carbon emissions by 2045 or sooner; (2) amending the GGRA plan; (3) shutting down Maryland remaining six coal plants, with assistance for displaced workers and affected communities; (4) stopping any new natural gas infrastructure in Maryland;  (5) increasing the electric vehicle tax credit; (6) phasing in a 100% electric bus fleet for the state; and (7) eliminating demand for petroleum-fueled cars by 2035.

Harbeson also noted that solar siting was a “complicated issue within the environmental community” and that there were a “broad spectrum of opinions.” Harbeson stated that the issue must be addressed comprehensively with all stakeholders participating and will likely require compromise from all sides.

Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski moderated the panel.