Whether Maryland will invest in more renewable energy remains a politically charged question as Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has yet to sign or veto a bill that would double the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery), passed as the General Assembly neared the final hours of the 2019 session. It seeks to increase the state’s existing mandate of 25 percent renewable energy by 2020 to 50 percent in the next decade.
Maryland would not be a national leader if the bill becomes law. In fact, it would follow Washington, D.C.’s lead, after the district approved a plan to move to 100 percent renewable energy in a similar time frame.
Advocates for establishing a new set of renewable energy standards, however, showed signs of being antsy for Hogan to reveal what side of the issue he would stand on this week. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network called a press conference with solar, wind and power industry leaders to ask Hogan to sign the bill.
There is good reason to be uncertain if Hogan will ultimately veto the legislation, because he did so in 2016.
Despite having veto-proof support for the 2016 Clean Energy Jobs Act — accelerating the state’s goal of 20 percent renewable energy by 2022 to 25 percent by 2020 — the governor vetoed the bill. The Legislature overrode his veto when it reconvened in early 2017.
The same veto-and-override dance could be coming again in 2019 and 2020.
The Maryland D.C. Delaware Virginia Solar Energy Industries Association announced in March that Maryland could miss out on an estimated $247 million in federal tax credits between 2019 and 2022 if the new standard was not adopted in 2019.
The association has an obvious stake in the bill, which requires utilities operating in Maryland to develop in-state solar resources so that 14.5 percent of their total energy is represented by solar. Today, only a 1.95 percent solar carve-out exists.
Still there is wide support for the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2019. It passed the Senate with a vote of 31-15 and the House of Delegates 95-40, which if unchanged meets the three-fifths threshold needed to override a veto.
However, a veto-proof majority has not deterred Hogan from sending a message on legislation in the past if he thinks it will be bad for the economy, including raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Hogan’s office offered a vague response Wednesday on whether his stance on increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standard had evolved.
“The governor will carefully review the legislation when it reaches his desk,” spokeswoman Shareese Churchill wrote in an email.
Hogan has already called the Legislature back into session on May 1 to select a new speaker of the House of Delegates, following the death of longtime leader Michael Busch. He is also scheduled to continue to sign legislation into law on April 30 and May 13 and 23.
Whether Hogan chooses to exercise his symbolic veto, or silently let the bill become law, the Clean Energy Jobs Act becoming law is likely inevitable.