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Opinion Maryland’s offshore wind will help the climate and create jobs

Three wind turbines from the Deepwater Wind project stand off Block Island, R.I., in July 2018. (Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)
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Brian J. Feldman, a Democrat, represents Montgomery County in the Maryland state Senate. Lorig Charkoudian, a Democrat, represents Montgomery County in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Climate change is happening, bringing real damage every day.

We are facing an urgent need to slow climate change by moving away from polluting energy sources and embracing wind, solar and other clean-energy sources.

The good news is that smart policy choices have established Maryland as a leader in the transition to emission-free, sustainable energy sources.

Under policies we helped craft in the General Assembly, we are moving to bring large-scale offshore wind energy to the state. The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) has carefully considered two firms’ plans and approved major new wind farms to be built more than a dozen miles off the Maryland coast.

With expected federal approval, Maryland will soon benefit from this new source of clean, renewable energy. When finished in a few years, the projects will create enough emission-free energy to power roughly 600,000 homes in the state.

A recent Local Opinions essay in The Post questioned the wisdom of investing in these projects, suggesting the costs will outweigh the benefits. We respectfully disagree.

The PSC considered the cost arguments the op-ed author made and rejected them.

Offshore wind must meet a stiff test — that it will provide a positive net economic value to the state when ratepayer costs are considered — before a project is approved. That is certainly the case with the proposed offshore wind projects.

The essay also seemed to suggest that ratepayers will be on the hook for unanticipated costs from the offshore wind projects. That is false and is reflected clearly in the PSC decision from December, which explicitly states, “Further, ratepayers, purchasers of ORECs, and the State shall be held harmless for any cost overruns associated with a Qualified Offshore Wind Project, as such, any cost overruns — to the extent that they occur — cannot be collected via an adjustment to the renewable portfolio standard OREC obligation determined through this Order.”

In addition to the massive amount of clean energy, the projects will generate well more than $1 billion in capital expenditures and thousands of jobs, many of which will be union jobs. The PSC further secured investments in three new manufacturing facilities in the state that will each employ hundreds of people, including a steel fabrication facility planned for Sparrows Point bringing steel manufacturing back to eastern Baltimore County.

With these investments, the Baltimore region and the entire state will become a major supplier for the quickly emerging clean-energy industry, creating well-paid manufacturing jobs and supplying components to not just the Maryland project but also potentially dozens more projects across the U.S. offshore wind market.

We also need to recognize that emerging technologies tend to have slightly higher costs as they gain traction. Without some incentives, these emerging technologies won’t have the chance to grow, become more efficient and, eventually, become the standard technology. No other energy technology has been completely cost competitive on Day 1. And let’s be clear: For nearly 100 years, our country has and continues to subsidize the fossil fuel industry, with federal and state subsidies topping $20 billion a year, according to the research organization Oil Change International. At the same time, the cost of offshore wind has dropped dramatically in just the past few years and is expected to continue to fall.

Finally, offshore wind is a reliable source of energy, generating power all day and night and making it an important part of our future clean-energy portfolio.

The future is clear. We must move away from fossil fuels and embrace clean energy. The question is: Do we want Maryland to be a leader in this transition and reap the economic benefits or not?

The good news is the General Assembly has already made that decision. Going back a decade, the legislature has established policies for making cost-effective investments in clean energy. And the PSC, with expert consultants, has signed off on the first set of such projects.

These will create new jobs, strengthen our economy and help ensure Maryland is part of the climate solution. It is a smart investment for Maryland.

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