ANNAPOLIS – Renewable energy sources could bring about 1,600 permanent jobs and $23 million in rural land lease royalties to the Mid-Atlantic region, a Maryland Public Interest Research Group study says.
The study, released Thursday, comes on the eve of a Maryland Senate Finance Committee hearing of a bill promoting “green” power.
The report wedded environmental benefits of clean energy to economic gains and would further buttress the legislation, the group said.
“At a time when the state is scrambling for ways to bolster the state’s business climate, promoting renewable energy is an easy choice,” said MaryPIRG spokeswoman Gigi Kellett. “More renewable energy equals more jobs for our state and, ultimately lower and more stable energy bills for consumers and businesses.”
The legislation, sponsored by House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, would require power utilities to provide clean energy sources on an increasing scale up to 7.5 percent in the next 10 years and pay a penalty for non-compliance. Penalty fees would be deposited in a fund to finance loans and grants for the development of solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and other preferred renewable energy sources.
The study also projected about 37,500 yearlong jobs in wind and solar energy industries and a net payroll of more than $364 million, but Kellett could not account for the number of jobs that could be lost in the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
“I’m not sure I’d see an economic impact to the detriment of the suppliers,” said Maryland Energy Administration spokeswoman Cynthia Prairie, adding that it would be a difficult thing to predict.
“Energy suppliers will continue to provide energy no matter where it comes from,” especially with electricity use projected to increase by 20 percent in the next decade, Prairie added.
Natural wind resources could satisfy more than 17 percent of current power demands, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
But though the administration supports the bill in its intent, it does have concerns about the economic impact on manufacturers and other consumers, MEA Director Michael Richard said, and the department has introduced legislation to provide tax credits to renewable energy producers to lower costs.
The renewable energy standard “may raise the cost of electricity, thereby discouraging electric suppliers from entering the Maryland market,” said the Public Service Commission.
“For large manufacturers, this is going to be a significant cost,” said Gene Burner, spokesman for Manufacturers Alliance of Maryland.
Kellett did acknowledge the valid worries of the Maryland manufacturing industry in the face of companies leaving the state or going bankrupt, but said the bill’s crafters were working on measures to lessen the price impact on manufacturers.
In addition, prices for traditional sources of energy, like natural gas, are increasing, Kellett said, and ultimately, renewable energy could lower overall prices.