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.