Maryland Renewable Energy Program’s Dirty Rip-Off

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Monday, February 21, 2022
Tim Whitehouse,, 202-265-7337

Maryland Renewable Energy Program’s Dirty Rip-Off

MD Ratepayers Subsidize Polluting Energy at Premium Prices


Washington, DC — Maryland’s clean program has large components that are both environmentally counterproductive and excessively costly to ratepayers, according to a report released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The state’s definition of what counts as clean, renewable energy includes highly polluting sources that accelerate climate change and spew toxins into the environment.

In 2020, about 25 percent of Maryland’s “clean energy” under the state’s Tier 1 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) came from dirty sources, such as municipal solid waste burned to produce electricity and woody biomass or debris burned in power plants and paper mills.

“Maryland needs to clean up its renewable energy program,” says PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, noting that between 2008 and 2030, Maryland ratepayers will spend about a half-billion dollars subsidizing dirty energy sources under the state’s RPS. “Even worse, these phony renewable credits are a double whammy on the environment since they enable energy providers to use more coal gas by purchasing dirty energy credits, thereby subsidizing additional energy sources that pollute our air and water.”

For example, the Maryland RPS program –

  • Spent millions of dollars on a Virginia biomass facility that is too dirty to qualify for Virginia’s own recently-enacted RPS;
  • Supports a trash incinerator in Fairfax County, Virginia that is one of the top sources of pollution in the Washington, DC metro area, and trash incinerators in Montgomery County and Baltimore that local leaders want closed because of the pollution they cause; and
  • Allows credits for burning “biomass gas” from DC’s Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant, which makes fertilizer from sewage sludge with extremely high levels of toxic per- and polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS).

In addition, most of these RPS facilities are located outside of Maryland provide no energy to Maryland energy suppliers.  Adding insult to environmental injury, for every dollar a utility saves by selling credits to Maryland, Maryland’s ratepayers must pay a dollar more on utility bills, plus whatever markups suppliers choose to tack on.

PEER is calling upon Governor Hogan, Senate President Bill Ferguson, and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones to work together to remove all dirty energy sources from the RPS. In 2020, Maryland took only the first step in that direction by removing black liquor, a sludgy byproduct of the pulping process that paper mills burn to power their operations, from its RPS program.

“This research underlines a stark reality: Maryland ratepayers’ ‘renewable’ energy money is being used to prop up polluters,” says Food & Water Watch Maryland Organizer Lily Hawkins. “By cleaning up Maryland’s renewable portfolio standard, we can redirect consumer dollars to truly clean energy sources that create, rather than export, new jobs in Maryland.”

“When we pay our electricity bills, we should be able to trust that the premium we pay for renewable energy is actually reducing pollution, not subsidizing it, said Jennifer Kunze, Maryland Coordinator at Clean Water Action. “Giving polluters extra profits with public money is holding Maryland back from the urgent action we need to fight the climate crisis.


Read the latest PEER report 

View PEER’s 2021 RPS report

Read PEER and EJN 2019 Letter to AG and PSC on RPS Compliance Issues

Phone: 202-265-7337

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Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

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