Maryland Democratic lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next year to increase the state’s use of renewable energy and boost both training for and development of clean-energy jobs, with a particular focus on helping women and minorities.
State Senate Majority Leader Catherine E. Pugh (D-Baltimore) and Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s), who plan to co-sponsor the forthcoming bill, said the
renewable-energy program would be the largest of its kind in state history, with $40 million allocated for worker training and business development.
They announced the proposal at a news conference in Annapolis, as world leaders continued to meet at a global climate-change summit in Paris.
“This is not a choice between addressing climate change and improving the economy,” said Davis, who chairs the House Economic Matters Committee. “I believe they are the same thing. These policies are working to reduce pollution and create jobs.”
The legislation would require Maryland to get 25 percent of its energy from renewable-energy sources such as wind and solar by 2020, accelerating existing standards that call for 20 percent by 2022. Meeting the 25-percent target would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by more than 2.7 million metric tons per year, Pugh and Davis said, the equivalent of taking 563,000 passenger vehicles off the road annually.
The lead sponsors of the legislation are Sen. Brian J. Feldman (D-Montgomery) and Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery), neither of whom were able to attend Tuesday’s news conference. Frick proposed the same expansion of the state’s renewable-energy portfolio during the 2015 session, but that measure stalled at the committee level.
The proposed increase in renewable energy would cost the average Maryland ratepayer an additional 52 cents per year, according to an independent analysis of Frick’s proposal.
Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), who did attend the news conference, said the new proposal should garner more support from the General Assembly this year, in part because of its backing by Pugh and Davis, both of whom wield considerable influence in Annapolis.
The $40 million for workforce and business development would come from a 2014 Public Service Commission agreement that allowed Dominion Resources, a Richmond-based power and energy company, to build a natural-gas facility in Calvert County, the lawmakers said.
Renewable-energy advocates applauded the plans as a way to guard against climate change, protect public health and bolster Maryland’s economy.
“We’ve seen that clean-energy policies create jobs and work for Maryland. Now let’s go further,” Chesapeake Climate Action Network director Mike Tidwell said.
Davis said about 3,000 solar workers are employed in Maryland, including installers earning an average of $23 an hour. “These jobs are well-paid jobs, and they offer a path to the middle class,” he said.
Pugh, who is president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, said the job-training and business-development initiatives would focus on women and minorities because those demographics are not well-represented in the clean-energy workforce.