It turns out that when you pay your electricity bill, a portion of what you pay ends up in the pockets of out of state corporations, not for electricity but for pieces of paper. As a result, millions of dollars from Maryland electricity customers are used to subsidize dirty "renewable" energy.
Why is this happening?
These dirty energy sources such as black liquor, animal manure and burning trash are labeled as "renewable" under Maryland law.
Analysis of 2015 data from the Maryland Public Service Commission shows that of all the money paid for Renewable Energy Certificates (REC)…. 60% went out of state. That's a whole lot.
How did this come about?
The theory behind RECs is that the environmental benefits of renewable electricity generation can be separated off from the production of the electricity itself.
The RECs, therefore, are a second commodity that renewable electricity producers can sell into the electricity markets in addition to the actual electricity generated.
As such, RECs can be unbundled from the electricity and sold to customers who want to use renewable electricity even if they are not in fact.
Maryland electricity ratepayers are paying millions of dollars each year for these unbundled RECs.
In 2015, ratepayers paid $127 million for RECs. Of that - Just $39 million went to pay for RECs from Maryland wind and solar energy. While state law requires solar RECs to come from in state, almost all of the wind RECs in 2015 came from out of state - 98.5%.
In total only 22% of the RECs "retired," used to claim the renewable benefit by an electricity supplier, were for wind and solar. Only 4% were from solar and wind produced in Maryland. That means that 96% of the RECs retired in 2015 were either from out of state wind or from dirty renewables.
That's a lot of numbers so in sum: way too much of the energy labeled as "renewable" in Maryland has been allowed to be either dirty or from out of state.
But there is a solution!
Maryland ratepayers do not have to continue subsidizing out of state corporations and dirty renewables with millions of their dollars.
This year, Delegate Shane Robinson is introducing a bill that would require 100% clean electricity sales in Maryland by 2035. The bill would both eliminate the counting of dirty renewables towards the clean energy target in Maryland and would rely primarily on solar and wind energy (truly clean energy sources). What's more, it would require Maryland electricity suppliers to buy electricity from wind and solar equal to the amount they sell in the state. No more paper RECs....but REAL electrons.
The bill would also incentivize the growth of truly clean energy jobs in Maryland. It would create new programs to offer rebates for solar energy and would incentivize the growth of a robust offshore wind energy industry.
We know that to stave off the worst effects of climate change we must act urgently. We have to transition off of our dependence on greenhouse gas emitting energy as soon as possible. Electricity remains both one of the largest sources of GHG emissions and also a key to decarbonizing one of the other largest sources - transportation.
Maryland has an opportunity to become a leader in the push for our 100% clean renewable future. And, in becoming that leader, we have the opportunity to create a vibrant economy that provides good jobs in one of the fastest growing industries in the country.