Maryland’s Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2019, passed in April 2019, mandates that the state source half of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030. All of it must be renewable by 2040. This bill comes on the heels of DC passing its own ambitious Clean Energy Act, which mandates that 100% of the District’s electricity will come from clean energy sources by 2032, while cutting emissions by 50% by 2032. Virginia legislators, on the other hand, rejected a bill requiring all the state source 100% of its electricity from clean sources by 2036 earlier in the year.
At first glance, Maryland’s bill is encouraging in that it requires the state’s utility companies to subsidize solar and wind farms, with the goal of reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. It also aims to increase clean energy businesses and create “green” jobs.
Unlike DC’s Clean Energy Act, which explicitly does not include “waste-to-energy” as a renewable energy source, Maryland’s Clean Energy Jobs Act includes not only trash incinerators, but also paper mills that produce a fuel byproduct called “black liquor.” In DC, Maryland, and Virginia, there are currently five incinerators.
Maryland’s Senate first amended the legislation to exclude trash incineration as a renewable energy source. However, that change nearly killed the bill, thanks to strong opposition by industry lobbyists, so the Maryland House of Delegates put the provision back in.
This inclusion of trash incinerators, which are found in the renewable portfolio standards (RPS) of 23 states nationwide, have divided lawmakers. Environmentalists are generally opposed to them because they are costly, polluting, and pose a health risk to people nearby.