Maryland Legislators Propose Raising State’s Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50%

Maryland legislators recently introduced a bill that would double the state’s renewable portfolio standard ("RPS") targets and create significant incentives for solar and offshore wind. 

Maryland’s current RPS requires that state electricity suppliers generate 20.4% of the state’s energy from renewable sources, including at least 1.95% being derived from solar energy and 2.5% from offshore wind energy. The current RPS is set to increase to require 25% renewable energy sources in 2020, with 2.5% coming from solar and 2.5% coming from offshore wind projects. If enacted, the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2019 (S.B. 516) would double that target and require 50% of Maryland’s energy supply to come from renewable energy sources by 2030, with at least 14.5% coming from solar and at least 1,200 megawatts coming from new offshore wind projects ("Round 2 Offshore Wind Projects"). 

The legislation also calls for a study of the impacts of the revised renewable portfolio standards, including the feasibility of increasing the RPS to 100% renewable energy sources by 2040. If passed, the legislation will also:

  • Establish new criteria for qualified offshore wind projects, open up additional application periods for future offshore wind projects less than 10 miles off the state coast (called “Round 2 Offshore Wind Projects”), and require the Public Service Commission to approve of projects with “net economic, environmental and health benefits to the state” that do not increase the net rate on average customers by specified amounts;
  • Fund small, minority, women and veteran-owned businesses in the state’s clean energy industry; and
  • Establish and fund the Clean Energy Workforce Account, a program designed to train individuals to work in the state’s clean energy industry.

The introduction of the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2019 follows similar legislation introduced last year, which was supported by a large portion of the general assembly but failed to pass the House Economic Committee. The proposed legislation also comes two years after Governor Hogan vetoed the Maryland General Assembly’s adoption of the state’s current RPS, forcing a legislative override of his veto. According to the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Initiative, this year’s bill has support from over 110 elected candidates, and Governor Hogan has recently expressed general support for Maryland further developing its renewable energy supplies, though he has not specifically endorsed S.B. 516.

As of March 20, the Maryland Senate had adopted the bill with several amendments, including a proposition to delete waste-to-energy and refuse-derived fuel from the list of Tier 1 renewable sources eligible for credit under the RPS. The bill is now under consideration by the Maryland House of Delegates.

On April 8, the General Assembly voted to pass SB-516 with a Senate approval of 95-41, and a House approval of 31-15. The Senate’s attempt to disqualify waste incineration as a renewable power source under the RPS standard did not make it into the final bill, which will now be forwarded to Governor Hogan to be signed into law.

Beveridge & Diamond’s Natural Resources & Project Development Practice Group represents clients during renewable energy project development, including permitting, litigation, and transactional matters. For more information on how these developments may impact your business in Maryland, please contact any of the authors of this article, or your usual Beveridge & Diamond contact.