Progress to Curb Carbon Emissions in Maryland

Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

Maryland made progress this summer through the program review of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). RGGI is a cooperative effort by nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to develop a regional power plant emissions cap-and-trade program. Revenues from the program help support the EmPOWER Maryland program for energy conservation and efficiency.

Over an 18-month period ending in August 2017, the nine states (Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Maryland) conducted a major program review and met to discuss changes to the program. RGGI held public hearings and received public input to the process. LWVMD testified to the Maryland Public Service Commission in support of strengthening the program by lowering the cap on allowable emissions. LWVMD also sent out an Action Alert to members during the RGGI discussions.

The nine states in RGGI were able to agree to reduce the program’s carbon pollution cap by 30 percent from 2020 to 2030. This represents a total reduction of 22.7 million tons of carbon emissions or 30 percent of the 2020 cap.

Raising the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 50% by 2030

Maryland Climate Coalition Partners and key Maryland Faith Leaders launched the Clean Energy Jobs Initiative with a press conference on Wed., Sept. 13, 2017 at 10 a.m. in Baltimore at the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland. Nearly 400 organizations, businesses and faith communities have signed a resolution for the campaign.

The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law is a major tool designed to incentivize development of new and clean sources of renewable energy like wind and solar to reduce greenhouse gases and other hazardous air and water pollution that comes from the use of fossil fuels. In 2004, Maryland adopted the first RPS law with a goal of ten percent of the energy coming from clean, renewable sources by the year 2019. After overcoming a veto of legislation to increase the RPS during the 2017 General Assembly session, the current law requires that Maryland utilities now get 25 percent of the energy portfolio from clean sources by 2020.

The purpose of potential RPS legislation in the 2018 General Assembly is to:

  • Increase the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) from 25% by 2020 to 50% by 2030;
  • Remove trash incineration from the clean energy portfolio;
  • Invest in clean-energy workforce development;
  • Make more funding available for investment capital and loans to help minority and woman-owned businesses.

For more information, see the mid-August State Board Letter.

Background

The Maryland RPS and RGGI are important components of Maryland’s effort to meet the overall goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030. This ambitious goal was established through passage of an updated 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Act (GGRA), which LWVMD supported, and establishing the Maryland Climate Commission (MCC) in law. Achieving this ambitious goal relies on the work of The Maryland Commission on Climate Change, whose membership is charged with developing and maintaining a comprehensive action plan to achieve science-based reductions in emissions.

Electricity is the largest single category of GHG emission in Maryland, and most of our electricity still comes from coal and nuclear. In 2015, the Maryland Department of the Environment released an Update report that analyzed 150 programs. The report found that ten programs were the most effective in producing the major reductions in GHG emissions and sequestration by 2020:

  • Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)
  • Maryland Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Program (RPS)
  • EmPOWER Maryland – energy efficiency and conservation
  • Maryland Clean Cars Program
  • Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) Standards
  • Building and Trade Codes in Maryland
  • Public Transportation Initiatives
  • Managing Forests to Capture Carbon
  • Planting Forests in Maryland
  • Zero Waste

In an open letter to Governor Hogan and the Maryland General Assembly, the Maryland Climate Coalition pointed out the urgency of action now to curb global warming:

“Maryland is especially vulnerable to the increasingly violent storms, sea level rise, flooding, heat emergencies and other environmental effects of climate change. In this moment when our nation’s partnership with the global community in addressing this threat has been called into question, Maryland urgently needs to re-affirm our commitment to doing our part. The Maryland Climate Coalition urges the executive and legislative branches of our state government to work together so that Maryland can serve as a national example….the most important reflections of Maryland’s commitment will be the actions that you, our elected leaders, take in the coming months and years.”

Betsy Singer,
LWVMD – Environment
bsinger@lwvmd.org