Kristin Cook is a leader with 350 Montgomery County. Mike Tidwell is director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
In the year 2030, people will buy homes differently in Maryland. They’ll look for good schools and safe neighborhoods. But they’ll also expect the home to produce its own energy. Rooftop solar power will be so commonplace in barely 10 years that it will be part of a homeowner’s standard checklist.
We can thank passage of the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act for that. The state’s General Assembly, led by Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery), adopted the legislation in April by huge veto-proof majorities. But Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has yet to say whether he’ll sign it or veto it. He has until late May.
To help the governor decide, here’s more of what Maryland would look like in a decade under this bill:
“Solar roof” parking lots will become commonplace. You’ll leave your car at work or the sports stadium under a simple roof of solar panels that will generate power for the very place you’re visiting. And a drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge will have your kids in the back seat asking, “What is THAT?” They’ll be looking at a massive wind turbine blade the length of a city block being barged out to a Maryland offshore wind farm. It likely will have been constructed by former steelworkers and other endangered workers in the heart of Baltimore’s old industrial area.
Want more? In the year 2030, because of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, you’ll be able to travel from Western Maryland to Ocean City and never see a new climate-warming smokestack — despite new energy being produced all around you. Maryland farmers, using a tiny fraction of the state’s agricultural land, will be harvesting the sun and saving their family land through sustainable utility-scale solar farms. Planted forest “screens” will mean you can’t even see most of these farms even as they help power your electric train or bus or car along the way.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act is a radically good bill right when scientists say we need radical steps to solve global warming. The bill mandates that 50 percent of state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030, matching the latest climate science on clean electricity generation while creating tens of thousands of new jobs at a low cost — $1.50 per month for average Pepco and BG & E ratepayers. The net economic benefits of the bill — as studied by the Hogan Administration itself — would be billions of dollars and would dwarf all costs.
The bill also mandates a study from the General Assembly on how to get to a full 100 percent clean electricity grid by 2040, thus putting Maryland in league with leading states, including California, Washington, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.
Of course the Maryland bill is not perfect. No legislation this big ever is. Lawmakers and activists tried valiantly to close various loopholes in current law, including one that counts power from trash incineration as clean energy. That effort failed in the House of Delegates. But environmental advocates have vowed to close this loophole in coming years while elected leaders in Baltimore City and Montgomery County (home to the state’s two utility-scale trash incinerators) have vowed to shut the facilities down in the near future.
But even with these flaws, the Clean Energy Jobs Act will dramatically move Maryland forward. Projections show that wind and solar power would make up nearly 90 percent of the state’s renewable energy sector by 2030. Plus, the bill creates mandatory spending of $17 million on training programs and other benefits for clean energy businesses owned by women, veterans and minorities.
So what’s Hogan going to do? Last December, in The Post, he wrote that unchecked climate change could “cripple” Maryland’s economy. He said his administration was ready to “put aside partisan interest and get to work” on climate solutions.
It’s hard to imagine a bigger solution than the Clean Energy Jobs Act. It’s also hard to imagine bigger support, with polls showing majorities of Republican voters nationwide now supporting clean energy. But Hogan has a bad history here. He vetoed a less ambitious version of this bill in Maryland in 2016, only to be overridden by the General Assembly.
Another veto would be overridden — but not until January — and it would haunt Hogan for years to come, especially if he runs for a certain national office. In a March letter to the Maryland House of Delegates, U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) pointed out that even a one-year delay in the start of the Clean Energy Jobs Act could cost the state nearly a quarter-billion dollars in lost federal investment tax credits for solar power.
A better option for Hogan is to do what’s environmentally and politically smart: sign the bill. He could then play a concrete, collaborative role in turning tomorrow’s vision of clean energy into a world-class reality in the Free State.