Annapolis, MD -- Advocates for Maryland’s Community Choice Energy (CCE) legislation testified today at a hearing held by the House Economic Matters Committee. The legislation, introduced by Delegate Lorig Charkoudian, has received broad-based support from prominent elected officials, policy experts, consumer protection advocates, and environmental organizers. The bill, which allows counties and municipalities to negotiate directly with utilities in order to ensure their own transition to renewables, while also lowering utility rates for customers, is gaining momentum and will be up for a vote later on during session.
“It’s a really exciting bill because it represents the epitome of what we call energy democracy,” said Delegate Lorig Charkoudian, the bill’s House sponsor. “We put the decisions about our energy supply in the hands of the people through their representative governments. It lets us bring the price down and it lets us take advantage of the competitive marketplace to make it work for consumers, as opposed to right now where for a lot of people it only works for the companies.
“It also lets us move clean energy forward in a way that we have not been able to do, at a time when we are in a climate crisis, and local government -- counties and municipalities -- are interested in playing a key role in climate solutions. This is another tool we can use to move the needle on clean energy.”
Charkoudian also provided examples of how similar legislation has worked in the nine other states that have adopted community choice aggregation measures. In those examples, communities were able to leverage their collective bargaining power to demand lower rates and cleaner energy. Charkoudian emphasized that aggregations do a better job of protecting consumer rights than the current system does.
“This is a very important issue for our communities,” said Jackie Allsup, 2nd Vice President of the Maryland State Conference NAACP. “H.B. 561 is a manifestation of energy democracy and will create an energy equity dynamic. Electric supply bulk purchasing power will be given to cities and counties so they can focus on the needs of communities and local businesses. This takes power away from monopolistic utilities, and can result in the creation of good, green jobs. It will also lead to less air pollution and fewer negative impacts on the environment from dirty energy supplies. This is a pathway to responsible energy decision making.”
“Community choice aggregation is being met with strong public support from a broad coalition representing workers, women, people of faith, and environmental justice organizations because it can help overcome barriers to clean energy development,” Jim Walsh, Senior Energy Policy Analyst at Food & Water Action, wrote in his testimony. “They all see Community Choice Energy as a win-win for their members. These organizations and the people they represent are asking you to support CCE because they want to stop climate change, breathe clean air, and make energy more affordable.”
“We all know we’re in a climate emergency,” said Marc Elrich, Executive of Montgomery County. “Our county government has committed itself to initiating a mass mobilization of resources to try to build a sustainable economy. We need to do our part. We have to take all possible steps to address climate change and move to clean, renewable energy. H.B. 561 gives local governments like ours one important tool as we move to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. This gives us the chance to build and purchase clean energy for as many residents and businesses as possible. It also has the potential to lower rates for customers.”
“There are some very ambitious goals in Maryland to switch to renewables, but there is not really a plan,” said Steuart Pittman, Executive of Anne Arundel County. “By having the ability to work with producers of electricity, and even by setting up some of our own solar operations, we can put together all these sources. And we know we have residents who would not opt out and who would participate. This makes our county government a major player in making the plan for our county, so the energy production happens where and how we want it to happen, and fits the needs of our electorate.”
“Maryland is especially vulnerable to the climate crisis,” testified Steven Hershkowitz, Maryland Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “We have the second most communities at risk of flooding, as well as extreme heat and air pollution. There’s no way around it: we need to achieve zero carbon electricity in order to have a chance in the face of climate change. We are too often told we have to choose between affordability today and a healthy climate tomorrow. This is a false choice. Community Choice Energy shows how we can accomplish both simultaneously.”