Governor Martin O’Malley has prioritized clean energy policy and aims to reduce Maryland’s energy consumption 15 percent by 2015. In addition, Maryland is a part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from electric utilities.
With those goals topping the Governor’s agenda, Maryland’s Senate chambers have been a hot spot for progressive policy lately, juggling a handful of issues that will become magnified this summer as we launch into the national debate on the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act.
One of the issues being debated is the cap and trade scheme’s auction allocation, and the debate here makes a notable contribution to policy development moving forward. It highlights the need to ensure that auction revenue goes toward alleviating rising energy costs through short-term revenue distribution and through investing in efficiency upgrades and low-carbon technologies for both near- and long-term cost reductions.
The policy priorities that Gov. O’Malley has demonstrated in the recent string of bills are also worth pointing out because they’re based on efficiency and conservation measures, which make significant greenhouse gas reductions in real time. The proposals are practical, feasible, and the technology required to implement them exists. In fact, it’s quite the opposite of what the delayer’s promulgate.
Here’s a quick recap of the bills the Maryland Senate has approved on efficiency measures (separate from the legislation they’re dealing with on cap and trade revenue allocation):
One of the energy bills requires utilities to create programs to reduce electricity bills by providing rebates for customers who buy energy-efficient appliances. The measure also is designed to create incentives for people to build more energy efficient homes.
The Senate also gave initial approval to a bill that seeks to diversify the state’s power supplies by increasing renewable energy sources like wind and solar power.
The Senate also gave preliminary approval to a third energy measure that would create a state fund to promote energy conservation.
The bottom line is that Maryland is asking the tough questions and attempting the aggressive policies, and this is exactly the direction the debate should head. It is thoughtful, ambitious, and addresses both short- and long-term issues.