Maryland Expands RPS: 1,500 MW Solar by 2022

With solar corporations like BP Solar and Sun Edison already headquartered in the state, the passage of legislation earlier this week requiring the development of 1,500 megawatts (MW) of solar energy by 2022 puts Maryland in the “upper echelon” of solar-supporting states in the U.S. In addition, the bill raises the net metering cap from 200 kilowatts (kW) to 2 MW.

“Nationally it ranks just behind New Jersey on a per capita basis. If you think about population, this bill is really phenomenal. Maryland’s target is half of California’s but only has one sixth the population, so that says a lot about how significant the program is,” said JP Ross, policy director for the Vote Solar Initiative. The bill, H.B. 1016/S.B. 595, amending Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), was voted through the General Assembly on Monday despite a number of last-minute attempts to halt its passage. “We got overwhelming support from Maryland activists. There were over 1,000 emails sent into the legislature in support of passing the RPS bill and that was met with success — the bill passed the House and Senate with an overwhelming margin,” said Ross. Expected to be signed by the Governor of Maryland within the coming weeks, the legislation will require 0.005% of the state’s electricity supply to be generated from solar starting in 2008 — increased incrementally each year until reaching the required 2% by 2022. If an electricity supplier fails to comply with the RPS they must pay a fee into the Maryland Renewable Energy Fund. The Fund will be administered by the Maryland Energy Administration and used to make loans and grants to support the creation of new renewable energy sources within the state. “It’s huge. It will really put Maryland at the forefront of solar energy,” said Senator Rob Garagiola, who sponsored Senate Bill 595. “1,500 megawatts, that’s greater than some of the power plants that we have in Maryland today.” Under terms of Maryland’s RPS, which was established in 2004, eligible renewable energy sources are divided into two tiers. Tier 1, which was amended through S.B. 595, includes solar, wind, qualifying biomass, methane from the anaerobic decomposition of organic materials in a landfill or wastewater treatment plant, geothermal, ocean energy, fuel cells powered by methane or biomass, and small hydroelectric plants. In order to meet the current RPS, said Garagiola, Maryland imports approximately 30% of renewable energy credits from outside of the state, which puts a tremendous strain on the state’s transmission lines, especially in the peak summer months. “It’s great from an economic development perspective. It’s great from a clean, renewable energy perspective. It’s great from a grid reliability perspective,” said Garagiola, noting the new RPS will mitigate the current peak demand and provide considerable cost-savings to rate payers in the future. “The way I look at it is, solar will be competing with the traditional electric providers in the not-too-distant future with this legislation,” added Garagiola. Podcast Editor Stephen Lacey contributed to this report
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