As word got out that Maryland’s clean energy jobs bill was reinstated on Feb. 2, a loud cheer was heard throughout Solar Energy World’s facility in Elkridge, Md.
“We truly appreciate both the House and the Senate’s help to push this bill through. We will continue to grow in the Maryland area and keep supplying a large number of jobs here in our solar-friendly state!” Geoff Mirkin, CEO, Solar Energy World, said.
Maryland Has a Vibrant Solar Industry
According to SEIA, there are now approximately 183 solar companies in Maryland employing thousands of workers, so this is good news for anyone working in the solar industry. It is also good news for Maryland homeowners who are interested in going solar and were holding off because of concerns that state incentives might not last if the veto held.
Last year, legislation sponsored by the Maryland Climate Coalition was passed that would increase the amount of energy the state’s utility customers receive from renewable sources, such as solar, from 20 to 25 percent by 2020. However, Gov. Larry Hogan immediately vetoed the bill calling it a “sunshine tax” and claiming it would be a major burden on utility rate-payers.
A nonpartisan analysis of the bill by the state Department of Legislative Services estimated that residential electricity customers might only pay between 48 cents and $1.45 more per month from increased renewable energy requirements. Proponents of the measure argued that reinstating the law would be a boost to Maryland’s economy through increased investment in clean energy jobs, which would more than make up for the small increase. The statehouse was flooded with calls and emails from Maryland homeowners and workers in the clean energy sector who supported the veto override.
Numerous posts from Maryland voters on the governor’s Facebook page echoed calls and emails received by the statehouse. A common sentiment expressed was that it was more important for the state’s environment to be protected and for green jobs continue to grow than it was to save a few cents. Voters joined state lawmakers and renewable energy stakeholders to call on the General Assembly to override the veto of the bill during this first legislative session of 2017.
The public pressure worked. On Feb. 2, the Senate voted 32 to 13 to override the Governor’s veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act boosting the solar portion from 2 percent by 2022 to 2.5 percent by 2020. Earlier in the week, the Maryland House agreed to restore the bill as well. Thus the law will go into effect 30 days from veto override and “create incentives for new clean energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions.” Proponents say “the greenhouse gas emissions saved are the equivalent of taking 563,000 passenger vehicles off the road each year, and will prevent 25 to 50 premature deaths related to air quality.”
This is just the first of many steps that are planned to strengthen the solar energy industry for Maryland’s environmental and economic development.