Jason Aul, Author at Maryland League of Conservation Voters Education Fund

About Jason Aul

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So far Jason Aul has created 3 blog entries.

Maryland’s Renewable Energy Landscape (Part Two of our 100% Clean Energy Blog Series)

Maryland’s Renewable Energy Landscape

Governor Wes Moore has committed to achieving 100% clean energy by 2035. Achieving this goal ensures our state is helping lead efforts to keep our planet within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) target of limiting global warming to 1.5-2°C above pre-industrial levels, while improving air quality and creating economic opportunities here in Maryland.

A transition toward a 100% clean energy economy is already underway in Maryland and across the globe. This transition will mitigate the impact of climate change and fossil energy infrastructure. It also provides an opportunity to provide restitution for past harms, support clean jobs, and secure a livable environment for future generations of Marylanders.

The Need for Renewable Energy

The move toward a more sustainable economy presents an opportunity to ensure a cleaner and more equitable future. This is often referred to as a just transition (see a few different definitions of a just transition here). We can ensure the clean economy and infrastructure we build to mitigate and adapt to climate change better suits everyone – regardless of where they are from, their family background, or current circumstances.

This blog provides a brief overview of Maryland’s renewable energy infrastructure landscape and just transition progress to date. I’ll discuss where we are in terms of renewable energy deployment and the policies that have gotten us here. 

Solar

The 2009 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act set a 14.5% carveout for solar energy in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). And while solar and wind energy projects represent the majority of new renewable power installations, Maryland is currently behind its solar goals.

To date, utility-scale solar has deployed at slower rates than small-scale solar in Maryland. Small-scale solar  – which includes community, ground-mounted, pole-mounted, and rooftop solar systems generating less than 1 MW – made up 60% of Maryland’s solar generation in 2022. In 2015, Maryland’s Community Solar Program was established as a pilot program, and was made permanent in 2023 through House Bill (HB) 908, with 40% of the projects in the program allocated to benefit low-to-moderate income (LMI) communities. Because it’s still difficult to install rooftop solar for those of us who rent, community solar is especially beneficial for renters. Community solar also supports the energy justice goal of more community-owned generators. Rooftop solar panel adoption remains challenging for LMI and other historically marginalized households because of the upfront costs and other requirements, like high minimum credit scores.  As a sector, though, rooftop solar has expanded and now just 0.8% of solar-viable rooftops in Maryland get all or part of their energy from rooftop panels. For utility-scale solar, Maryland is currently transforming a former coal mine and brownfield site in Garrett County into what will be the largest solar project in the state. 

Solar represents a workforce opportunity, and last year, 6,865 Marylanders were employed in the solar industry, representing 2% of the U.S. solar workforce and 0.2% of Maryland’s workforce.

Wind

Maryland’s utility-scale land-based wind capacity is very small, with almost all  potential concentrated in Western Maryland. The four projects online include a total of 76 turbines with 190 MW rated capacity. Maryland’s commitment to wind energy development is largely materializing offshore, with the 2023 Promoting Offshore Wind Energy Resources (POWER) Act setting the state goal of 8.5 GW of offshore wind by 2031 and state-sponsored offshore wind supply chain grant and training programs. Two projects, Momentum Wind and MarWin are currently under development. Simultaneously, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has identified and proposed two Wind Energy Areas (WEAs), totaling 277,938 acres, for leasing in the Central Atlantic Call Area. A third lease area, closer to Maryland, was unfortunately scrapped from the final proposal but may be included in a 2025 lease area sale. 

We anticipate the 2024 lease area sale process to begin in the coming months when there will be opportunities for support and advocacy for this important industry. Our state is demonstrating leadership in the North Atlantic region through the revival of the Sparrows Point Steel facility in collaboration with United Steelworkers, U.S. Wind agreements with local unions, and serving as the homebase of the leading offshore renewable industry member-organization, the Oceantic Network.

Hydropower

Hydropower is the longest standing form of renewable energy in the state and the most common in the world, and until last year when it was exceeded by solar generation, hydropower generated the most annual net generation of all renewable power in the state. The largest hydroelectric plant, the Conowingo Dam, has been key to renewable energy targets as other forms have lowered in cost over the years. Despite this, as you may also know, the Dam has also been the center of several environmental (read: Clean Water Act) violations/controversy.

Geothermal

Maryland was the first state to add geothermal to its RPS. In the 2024 legislative session, Maryland passed the WARMTH Act, a bill that will create a networked (neighborhood-scale) geothermal pilot program similar to the New York state pilot. Though networked pilot programs will be new to our state, geothermal has been adopted in several buildings in the state. As of August 2022, Maryland had 3,268 residential and commercial systems. Geothermal can provide households with energy savings potential of 25-50%. Baltimore Gas and Electric’s (BGE) Multi-Year Plan relies on geothermal adoption in its territory.

Storage

Most renewable energy sources are intermittently available, thus making storage critical to the just transition. Storage can include batteries, fuel-cells, pumped hydro, and mobile batteries (including electric vehicles). Hybrid power plants site renewable energy generation near or alongside storage – this type of plant is growing in interest to developers. Last year, Maryland established an Energy Storage Program and the Public Service Commission convened a Workgroup that is set to establish guidelines for the program by 2025. This group is currently focused on outlining program eligibility both by storage type and, ultimately, some alternative metric to determine if a project qualifies for meeting a storage deployment target.

What Next?

Despite progress, there remains an urgent need to decarbonize the electricity sector. Maryland still has to displace the 18,863,000 MWh of fossil-based generation in the state in order to meet our climate goals, aid in avoiding climate catastrophe, and clean up our air and waterways. Decision-makers could show a stronger commitment to ensuring no Marylander is left behind in efforts to mitigate climate change, and there remains a need to commit funding to and implement renewable energy policy goals. Continued use of principles and the practice of the just transition can guide us to 100% clean energy by 2035.

For more information on Maryland’s renewable energy landscape, you can find a fact sheet on our state’s key renewable energy policies here.

2024-05-13T16:50:10-04:00May 13th, 2024|Categories: Blog|

100% Clean Energy Campaign Blog Series: Introduction

While the Maryland General Assembly’s 446th session recently came to a close, the work continues for Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ campaign for 100% Clean Energy by 2035.

To celebrate the exciting work ahead for this campaign, Earth month, and the end of a session that addressed several climate, justice, and clean energy issues – we’re launching this blog series about where our state has been and where we still have to go in order to achieve our climate goals.

About the Writer

Alexandra Grayson

I’m a third-generation Baltimorean, and I lived in Maryland my entire life until graduating from Baltimore City College. I moved down the street to Washington, D.C. to pursue my undergraduate degree from Howard University – and in 2022, I received my Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Environmental Science from Howard, in what is now the Department of Earth, Environment and Equity (E3).

I am now a graduate student in the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California Berkeley but have been in the trenches in Annapolis for the last few months with the team at Maryland LCV as the Climate Policy and Justice Fellow. 

Both sides of my family have been in the Chesapeake Bay area for at least 5 generations. The future of Baltimore, Maryland, and our region is important to me so that there can be at least 10, 20, 30+ more.

This role with Maryland LCV has provided me with an opportunity to advocate for a clean and just future for all Marylanders, which has been really rewarding.

MDLCV’s Climate Policy and Justice Fellowship

Like many others also in Generation Z, my relationship with my climate optimism (and often pessimism) is complicated. Our vision for a just, net-zero future, where all can enjoy the benefits of a cleaner economy and healthier spaces to live, work and play, has yet to come to fruition.

Policy is a great – and in my view, one of the only – tool to effect systemic change that would make this vision possible. The Maryland League of Conservation Voters’ policy advocacy has played an integral role in getting Maryland’s environmental policy to where it is today.

Maryland has led the country with climate targets most in alignment with global emissions reduction targets. Our state’s implementation and enforcement of the Clean Energy Jobs Act and Climate Solutions Now Act provides a great opportunity to lead on climate beyond our appropriate goal setting. As an extremely proud Marylander, I’d love to see our state’s implementation also position us as a global climate leader.

In the upcoming blogs, I’ll discuss Maryland LCV’s 100% Clean Energy Campaign. This campaign represents one of the most exciting aspects of the fellowship: collaborating with fellow Maryland advocates to shape the state’s implementation of passed policy. It was exciting to come into the fellowship while the Maryland Department of Environment was finishing their plan for implementing the Climate Solutions Now Act – the Climate Pollution Reduction Plan – and while the planning for Maryland’s Energy Storage Program was taking place.

Playing a small role in helping pass new legislation was also extremely rewarding. The fellowship gave me the opportunity to conduct research to support advocacy for a bill that would ensure manufacturers have a role in meeting state greenhouse gas reduction goals. This bill, HB 990, ultimately passed both chambers and is being considered by the Governor to sign into law. The session, along with several wins, tends to not come without disappointments for all involved. For example, two years post-Maryland’s Climate Solutions Now Act, which defined overburdened and underserved environmental justice communities, it was disappointing to see HB24 pass the House without the addition of air permits. Maryland LCV is committed to rooting a clean energy campaign in justice and equity, with community-informed policies and outreach as core tenets.

I’ve learned so much during the fellowship about advocacy for an equitable and sustainable future. I enjoyed getting to meet, reacquaint myself with some, and work with Maryland’s climate advocates. The work is rewarding because we’re playing a role in building a just, clean future for our state.

100% Clean Blog Series

I’m excited to share some of what I’ve learned will be important to political climate action during this fellowship, and how MDLCV supporters can contribute to the 100% Clean Energy Campaign. You’ll also see some special guest posts and voices from colleagues at Maryland LCV as this blog series continues throughout the year.

You can expect to read about:

  1. The Cost of Climate Change in Maryland
  2. Maryland’s Renewable Energy Landscape
  3. Environmental Justice
  4. Maryland’s Climate Pollution Reduction Plan
  5. What 100% Clean Energy Policy Looks Like
  6. How You Can Get Involved!
2024-04-29T10:24:04-04:00April 26th, 2024|Categories: Blog|

Supporting Environmental Justice: Federal Initiatives and Opportunities for Maryland

By Rianne Nickerson

In July, Vice President Kamala Harris visited Coppin State University in Baltimore to announce a $20 billion competition to advance a clean energy financing network, with the aim to substantially reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions nationwide. She spoke of underserved communities, a term that holds weight in Maryland having been defined and enshrined into law in the Climate Solutions Now Act. At the federal level, the Biden-Harris administration has taken action to prioritize environmental justice and create opportunities, directing funding and resources to those communities long burdened by environmental inequities. New policies are being adopted and grant programs are emerging to address injustice and put us on a path to a clean energy transition that is inclusive and equitable.

Under the Justice40 Initiative and the Inflation Reduction Act, the Federal Government and federal agencies have created several grant opportunities that local governments, organizations, communities, and tribes can take advantage of to create Environmental Justice programs or initiatives that help overburdened, underserved, and disadvantaged communities. The Environmental Protection Agency has created the Climate and Environmental Justice Block Grants to provide $3 billion in competitive, 3-year grants to states, tribes, municipalities, and community-based nonprofit organizations for financial and technical assistance to address clean air and climate pollution in disadvantaged communities.

The EPA has also created the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Grantmaking Program. This program is a competition to select Grantmakers to reduce the barriers to the federal grant application process that communities face and to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the awards process for environmental justice grants. Alongside the Grantmaking Program, the EPA has created the Environmental Justice Thriving Communities Technical Assistance Centers Program. This program establishes technical assistance centers providing technical assistance, training, and related support to communities with environmental justice concerns. These technical assistance centers will ensure that deserving projects receive funding and project outcomes are successful for local communities.

These initiatives by federal entities are an important step in the fight for environmental justice. By understanding what options are available, Maryland’s local governments and community organizations can use these programs to directly address climate and pollution challenges, benefiting communities across the state. To that end, Maryland LCV Education Fund met with state and local government officials in August alongside the Maryland Association of Counties annual conference to share this packet of information about these environmental justice grant opportunities and how they fit into the efforts to map and understand environmental justice needs in Maryland: check it out here.

2024-02-14T11:34:27-05:00October 20th, 2023|Categories: Blog, Education Fund, MDLCV|