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Md. governor touts efforts to open state to clean energy

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Md. governor touts efforts to open state to clean energy

Since taking office in 2015, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan pitched himself as someone who has turned Maryland into a business-friendly state encouraging use of clean energy and innovation.

"Our administration strongly supports renewable energy as part of a diversified energy portfolio, but we also understand that decisions around renewable energy need to be made with ratepayers in mind," Hogan said March 20 in a keynote address at a forum in Annapolis, Md. The governor spoke at the Advancing Maryland's Clean Energy Economy forum, co-hosted by the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum, which backs free-market clean energy solutions, and two membership-based groups, the Maryland Tech Council and Clean Energy Business Network.

Hogan, who is up for re-election in November, has had a mixed record on clean energy. He vetoed the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2016, to raise the state's renewable energy target to 25% by 2020, because he believed it would raise taxes. That legislation was enacted when the state legislature, dominated by Democrats, overrode his veto in 2017.

During the forum, Hogan framed clean energy as helping to address his broader environmental agenda. The former small business owner views clean energy as one way to meet the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, a 2009 law that directed the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020 and was updated in 2016 with a 40% reduction target by 2030.

Hogan has been known to break away from members of his own party and the Trump administration when it comes to climate change. While the Trump administration has promoted the development of domestic fossil fuels, Hogan in April 2017 signed a statewide ban on fracking. When President Donald Trump in 2017 threatened to withdraw the U.S. from a 2015 international climate agreement negotiated in Paris, Hogan joined 15 other states and Puerto Rico as part of the U.S. Climate Alliance to commit to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Hogan explained how his policies including those around clean technologies are pro-business and pro-innovation.

"When it comes to clean energy, we are finding new ways to unleash the talent that that has made Maryland a leader," he said. As an example, he referred to legislation he signed in Mary 2017 to create a clean energy research hub called the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute, which is intended to attract private investment and assist drawing new technologies to market. The institute is a collaboration between the University of Maryland and the Maryland Clean Energy Center, a body created by the legislature to support clean energy policies, education and project financing.

Hogan also touted Maryland as being the first state to offer a 30% tax credit for residential and commercial properties that install energy storage. Under legislation that Hogan signed, the state can award up to $750,000 in tax credits in the 2018 tax year. A qualified applicant can write off up to 30% of the installation costs, with a limit of $5,000 for a residential property and $75,000 for a commercial property.

But the governor did not bring up recent legislation to further increase the state's renewable energy goal, which failed to pass out of committee in the General Assembly.

House Bill 1453, to double the state's renewable target to 50% by 2030, was rejected on March 15 by the House Economic Matters Committee, which left the Senate companion, Senate Bill 732, also tabled. A separate bill, H.B. 878, to have all of the state's power come from qualified renewables by 2035 was also rejected by the Economic Matters Committee.

"When I took office, Maryland had only 258 MW of solar generation capacity. Now, that number has more than doubled to 665 MW of deployed solar, which is enough to power about 65,000 homes," Hogan said. Under the state renewables standard, the target percentage of electricity sales from solar increased from 0.5% in 2015 to 1.15% last year.