Why should we demand that there be a full vote on the Clean Energy Jobs Act? Equity and Health!
Solar United Neighbors is currently fighting for the Clean Energy Jobs (or 50% RPS) bill (SB 732/ HB 1453) under consideration in Annapolis. While the bill has faced some challenges in key committees, we’re still hopeful that the combined might of the coalition supporting the bill and our mobilized Maryland solar army will push the bill over the finish line in the current legislative session.
This has been our primary policy campaign this year because of its potential to positively impact Maryland’s clean energy economy—and the solar industry in particular. The Clean Energy Jobs Act will increase the percentage of our energy use that must come from renewable sources (renewable portfolio standard or RPS) from 25% to 50%, including a 14.5% carve out for homegrown solar energy produced in Maryland. It invests in clean energy job training programs to lean into one of the fastest growing industries in the nation, and it will increase equity and fairness in the Maryland solar market by increasing demand for community solar—extending the benefits of solar to community members currently unable to enjoy them.
Because the bill includes so many important measures that each deserve to be examined, we are taking the time to explore several of the bill’s features and how they will impact Marylanders. This is our second post in the series, following up on last month’s entry examining the economic benefits for current and future solar homeowners.
While last post examined the bottom line, this post will take a wider look at how this bill will improve Maryland’s solar market from the bottom up.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act will make Maryland’s energy economy more equitable for all Marylanders
As mentioned above, the bill will fund clean energy job training and expand community solar. It will also make grants available to women and minority owned businesses, helping to improve diversity in the quickly growing renewable energy sector, while also removing waste incineration and other polluting forms of energy production from the list of tier one renewable resource that make up the RPS. These initiatives will ensure that the benefits of Maryland’s energy system are more equitably distributed and increase inclusion in the clean energy economy by empowering Maryland communities that have traditionally been left out of its growth.
Make no mistake: these investments are essential to ensuring fair growth in Maryland’s clean energy economy—and the solar job market in particular. Nationally, Black workers are badly underrepresented in the solar workforce, comprising only 6.6% of solar workers—and that’s even higher than the 5.9% of workers in Maryland’s solar industry who are Black. Women are also wildly underrepresented in Maryland’s solar workforce, at only 28%. The Clean Energy Jobs Act will support job training programs that will help to elevate these inequities by connecting underrepresented community members with good paying jobs to kickstart careers in Maryland’s green economy.
In addition to the economic benefits of expanding Maryland’s clean energy workforce, the bill will expand solar benefits to new communities by increasing penetration of our state’s existing community solar program. Community solar simply opens solar access to Marylanders currently locked out of the market because they live can’t install solar on their roof—perhaps because they live in an apartment or condo, or because their roof is shaded. Expanding solar production in the state to meet 14.5% of our energy needs by 2028 will require investments in community solar. And, thanks to low- and moderate-income carveouts in our community solar pilot program, many of these investments will directly benefit traditionally marginalized communities.
Finally, the positive health impacts are a huge reason why the Clean Energy Jobs Bill will benefit all Marylanders. More renewable energy that is produced and used in Maryland from clean sources will reduce our reliance on burning fossil fuels and other energy sources that contribute to air quality issues that are leading causes of COPD, asthma, and other health conditions. Waste energy plants produce up to 90% more carbon emissions and other harmful air pollution than coal-fired power plants, and still produces ash that leaches toxins into our soil and ground water. Low-income communities and people of color are disproportionately harmed by these factors, with 68% of African Americans and nearly two in five Latinos living within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. The government incentives that support these energy sources would be diverted to actual renewable energy production by the Clean Energy Jobs Bill.
Let’s stop poisoning our communities, air, and water by supporting real clean energy for a healthier and more prosperous Maryland future. As clean, locally produced solar continues to expand for all Marylanders, we’ll all benefit form lower electric bills, more jobs, and improved community health!