Maryland Clean Energy Program Has Big Dirty Component  

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For Immediate Release:  Thursday, January 28, 2021
Contact:  Kirsten Stade, Jennifer Kunze

Maryland Clean Energy Program Has Big Dirty Component

Consumers Paying More for High-Polluting Renewables “Dressed in Green”

Washington, DC — A large and growing portion of Maryland’s renewable “clean energy” comes from high-polluting energy sources, according to a report released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). In 2019, approximately 40 percent of the energy attributed to the state’s Tier 1 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) came from “dirty” sources, up by more than a fifth from just the year prior.

These dirty sources of energy include black liquor, a sludgy byproduct of the pulping process that paper mills burn to power their operations; woody biomass, most of it also burned at paper mills; and municipal solid waste burned to produce electricity.  The report also found that the proportion of black liquor in Maryland’s Tier 1 RPS rose from 15% in 2018 to 23% in 2019.

“People think when they buy renewable energy they are investing in wind and solar, but they are often subsidizing pollution from paper mills, ‘biomass’ incinerators, and landfills passing as renewable energy sources,” said PEER’s Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, who today sent a letter to Governor Hogan, Senate President Bill Ferguson, and Speaker Adrienne Jones, asking their help in removing these dirty energy sources from qualifying as renewable energy under Maryland’s renewable energy program.  “The definition of renewable should be tightened to exclude high polluting practices that contribute to rather than combat climate change.”

PEER’s report, “It’s Time to Clean up Maryland’s Clean Energy Program: Dirty ‘renewables’ cost Maryland money and jobs,” also found that in addition to the pollution consequences, these dirty renewables are no bargain for Maryland:

  • In 2019 alone, Maryland paid over $32 million to buy renewable energy credits from dirty energy sources;
  • Since 2008, Maryland energy providers paid more than $200 million to comply with the state’s clean energy law, all of which were then passed on to Maryland ratepayers; and
  • Most of these dirty energy profits go to Virginia. Since 2008, Maryland energy providers have paid more than $108 million, more than half the total program costs, to buy dirty renewable energy credits generated in Virginia.

“Maryland ratepayers are getting ripped off because they are paying more for far less pollution abatement than they should,” added Whitehouse, noting the additional stress on Maryland ratepayers already struggling due to the pandemic. “Adding insult to injury, hard-pressed Maryland consumers are subsidizing dirty energy producers in Virginia.”

“For too long, trash incineration and other dirty energy sources have enjoyed subsidies and benefits in Maryland that have made our state a target for the industry and complicit in polluting the air in our own neighborhoods,” said Jennifer Kunze, Maryland Program Manager of Clean Water Action. “Communities have to work hard to fight for clean air to breathe – the state shouldn’t be making it harder by falsely classifying sources of air pollution as renewable energy and making ratepayers subsidize them while we’re fighting them.”

The report demonstrates how removing dirty energy sources from the RPS would allow the state to redirect spending to clean renewable sources that would create new jobs and meet consumer expectations that the premium they pay for renewable energy actually reduces pollution.


See the PEER report

Read PEER letter to Gov. Hogan and legislative leadership

Phone: 202-265-7337

962 Wayne Avenue, Suite 610
Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

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