Updated February 23, 2024
Maryland — August 1, 2023 — A coalition of environmental leaders comprising eight organizations is intensifying its call for greater transparency regarding the administration of Maryland's renewable energy program. The group is specifically focused on understanding how the state allocates financial credits to entities engaged in renewable energy generation. In a joint communication addressed to the five members of the Maryland Public Service Commission, these environmental advocates express concerns that the state's renewable energy program may not be fulfilling its intended objectives.
Questioning Maryland's Commitment to Renewable Energy
Tim Whitehouse, the Executive Director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), stated, "There is substantial evidence that Maryland's supposedly renewable energy program is in reality subsidizing an array of dirty energy sources. It is imperative that both ratepayers and the General Assembly have a clear idea of how this program operates."
Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS): A Key Element
The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), responsible for regulating public utilities in Maryland, issues an annual report assessing the performance of the state's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS outlines targets for renewable energy generation within the state. It categorizes various forms of renewable energy, providing financial incentives to companies utilizing and producing such fuels.
Call for Enhanced Reporting
In their letter to the PSC, the coalition of environmental groups calls for significant enhancements to the next annual report, scheduled for release later this year. These proposed improvements aim to determine if the program is functioning as intended.
Among the key information requested in the letter are:
Price of Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) by Fuel Source
This data would allow ratepayers to assess the value they receive from their investments in various electricity sources, such as wind, incineration, and biomass.
Age of Facilities Selling RECs
This information would help determine whether Maryland's RPS encourages the development of new renewable energy facilities or merely subsidizes older ones predating the RPS's existence.
Names and Quantities of Facilities Selling RECs
This transparency would enable ratepayers to identify which companies are benefiting from the program. Notably, this information was included in previous reports but omitted in the 2022 report.
Additionally, the coalition calls on the PSC to conduct a compliance check to ensure that renewable energy credits sold in Maryland meet eligibility requirements, particularly the environmental standards applicable to waste-to-energy facilities.
The Financial Impact on Ratepayers
Whitehouse estimated that between 2008, when the Renewable Portfolio Standard first came into effect, and 2030, Maryland ratepayers may spend nearly one billion dollars subsidizing the state's RPS program. PEER, a national organization, has been a consistent critic of the program, releasing a report in early 2022 characterizing it as a "dirty energy ripoff."
Unifying Voices for Transparency
Joining Whitehouse in signing the letter are representatives from prominent environmental organizations, including Jennifer Kunze, Maryland coordinator of Clean Water Action; Sonia Demiray, co-founder of the Climate Communications Coalition; Jorge Aguilar, Southern region director of Food & Water Watch; Laurel Peltier, chair of the Maryland Energy Advocates Coalition; Annie Bristow, convener of the Mountain Maryland Movement; Gabby Ross, founder of Concerned Citizens Against Industrial CAFOs; and Shashawnda Campbell, environmental justice Coordinator of South Baltimore Community Land Trust.
Governor Wes Moore's Influence on the PSC
Governor Wes Moore (D) has initiated changes within the Public Service Commission since assuming office in mid-January. Three of the five commissioners are appointees of Governor Moore. The extent to which this new leadership will shape future reports on the RPS remains to be seen.
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