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Environmental Groups Want New Goals for Maryland’s Renewable Energy

Maryland's Renewable Portfolio Standard was established in 2004, according to the Maryland Public Service Commission. (Pixabay)
Maryland's Renewable Portfolio Standard was established in 2004, according to the Maryland Public Service Commission. (Pixabay)
August 2, 2018

BALTIMORE — While state officials believe they are working toward a greener Maryland, environmental groups in the state are calling for changes in what's considered renewable energy.

Maryland was given a failing grade from both Food and Water Watch and Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility because its renewable energy projects list trash incineration and other byproducts as renewable sources and collect subsidies from them. Food and Water Watch research director Patrick Woodall said multiple actions need to change on the part of the state, including removing so-called renewable energy sources that boost fossil fuels and other sources of air pollution.

"They need to increase their target goal to 100 percent renewable,” Woodall said; “and, in a short time frame - in the next couple of decades."

Right now, the state's goal requires utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from renewable energy by 2020.

Prince George's County Democrat Dereck Davis is chairman of the state House of Delegates' Economic Matters Committee. He rejects the state's "F" grade, claiming Maryland is making strides compared with other states that don't even offer incentives for renewables.

One example of what Woodall considers a pseudo-renewable energy project is Wheelabrator Baltimore, a waste-to-energy facility that produces toxic chemicals such as hydrochloric acid but isn't restricted. Meanwhile, two planned wind farms off of Maryland's coast are receiving backlash from officials because the turbines could present an ugly view in the distance.

But right now, Woodall said, solar and wind energy make up just 3 percent of the state's energy output, and stronger results aren't projected.

"We project that it would only be about 9 percent by 2038, 20 years from now,” he said. “So that's really not on track to make the transformation necessary to curb the worst effects of climate change."

Six other states received failing grades in the Food and Water Watch study, "Cleanwashing: How States Count Polluting Energy Sources as Renewable." Hawaii and Vermont received the highest grades of B-minus and C-plus, respectively, for having few polluting sources in their renewable energy incentive programs.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MD