Lighting the Way Report
Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center
New Report: Solar Capacity in Maryland Grew 33.33% in 2013
Progress Fueled by New Programs
Baltimore, MD – Today, Environment Maryland Research & Policy Center released Lighting the Way, showing strong solar growth across the nation including an 33.33% increase in Maryland in 2013. The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy to help capture the virtually unlimited and pollution-free energy from the sun.
Maryland progress on solar has helped fuel a tripling of solar energy nationwide between 2011 and 2013. In 2013, solar capacity in Maryland grew from 109 MW to 142 MW.
“Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option here in Maryland and across the country,” said Joanna Diamond, Director of Environment Maryland. “Thanks to the commitment of Maryland’s leaders, this pollution-free energy option is poised to play a major role in helping us meet greenhouse gas emissions and clean energy goals.”
Solar in the United States increased more than 120-fold in the last 10 years. In the first quarter of 2014, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all the new electric generation capacity installed in the United States. Ten states with the most solar installed per/capita are driving 89% of the solar installed in the U.S, while representing only 26 percent of the population and 20 percent of the electricity consumption.
“Maryland needs to adopt progressive policies that encourage more clean energy in general and solar, in particular,” said State Senator Paul Pinsky (District 22). “We need creative approaches to financing and incentives to build this burgeoning industry that has proven to be good for the environment and good for the economy. Climate change will not go away. We need to be more aggressive in seeking solutions to reverse this environmental catastrophe.” Senator Pinsky has been a champion in advancing policy that will grow solar energy in Maryland, and was the lead sponsor on Maryland legislation that would double Maryland’s renewable energy goals.
And as the solar industry grows, the cost for installed solar decreases; making it more accessible. The price of installed solar systems fell 60 percent between the beginning of 2011 and the end of 2013. Jobs in the solar industry are also growing rapidly. In 2013, there were more than 140,000 solar jobs in the U.S., including 2,000 in Maryland.
The League of Women Voters of Maryland was happy to see the use of solar growing in Maryland. “We are pleased to see use of solar power is growing nationwide and that Maryland is a leader in positive policies to encourage its generation,” remarked Susan Cochran, President of League of Women Voters of Maryland. “The League is very concerned about the impacts of climate change and this report shows that efforts to address it are beginning to take hold.”
Another major driver for solar energy is that it produces no pollution; including climate-altering carbon emissions. According the report, solar power produces 96 percent less global warming pollution than coal-fired power plants over its entire life-cycle and 91 percent less global warming pollution than natural gas-fired power plants.
“This recent progress shows that a strong public commitment – and smart public policy to back it up – can give solar the boost it needs to thrive,” remarked Josh Tulkin, Director of the Maryland Sierra Club. “If we maintain momentum, we will reap the tremendous benefits of cleaner air and less carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels.”
Several strong policies adopted by the top 10 solar states, like Maryland helped encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar:”
- 9 states have strong net metering policies. In nearly all of the leading states, consumers are compensated at the full retail rate for the excess electricity they supply to the grid.
- 9 states have strong statewide interconnection policies. Good interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
- All 10 states have renewable electricity standards that set minimum requirements for the share of a utility’s electricity that must come from renewable sources, and 8 of them have solar carve-outs that set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean, distributed electricity.
- 9 states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements, and 8 allow property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.
Here in Maryland, solar progress is attributed to a number of programs, including the Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) which sets renewable energy goals for the State. Environment Maryland is working to double Maryland’s RPS to 40% by 2025. Between the Maryland community’s commitment to doubling clean energy standards, as well as key decision-makers seeing solar energy as a key electricity source, Maryland is well on its way to becoming a leader in protecting the health, economy and environment of Maryland.
“Maryland’s officials deserve tremendous credit for recognizing the environmental and economic benefits of solar and taking action to make it a reality,” said Joanna Diamond. “As more people see the benefits of solar energy, we’re confident clean, limitless energy from the sun will be a growing part of Maryland’s plan to reduce pollution from power plants.”
Environment Maryland Research and Policy Center is a statewide, citizen based, environmental advocacy organization. For more information, visit http://environmentmarylandcenter.org/.