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Maryland senate overrides veto of 25% renewable target

The Maryland Senate on Feb. 2 overrode Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill setting a 25% by 2020 renewable energy target.

By a 32 to 13 vote, the Senate overrode the veto of the Clean Energy Jobs Act, known during the 2016 legislative session as S.B. 921. The move follows in the footsteps of the state House, which on Jan. 31 overrode Hogan's veto of a companion bill, H.B. 1106, by an 88 to 51 vote.

The Clean Energy Job Act, whose lead sponsors include Sen. Brian Feldman and Delegate Bill Frick, both Democrats, would raise the state's renewable target up from the prior mandate of 20% by 2022. Under the act, solar must provide at least 2.5% of annual power sales by 2022, up from the current requirement of 2% for that year. Hogan vetoed the bill in May 2016 because it could lead to increased costs to ratepayers, according to a May 27, 2016, letter.

The American Wind Energy Association praised the Senate's override of the veto. The trade group's CEO Tom Kiernan said the new law "ensures more low-cost, homegrown American wind power reaches homeowners and businesses," according to a release.

Wind energy has helped the state meet its annual renewable requirements. In the 2015 compliance year, 23% of the state's Tier I requirement was met with renewable energy credits generated from wind projects, according to the state's latest "Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard report" for 2015. Each year, the state requires most of its renewable target to be fulfilled with Tier I renewables, a category inclusive of about a dozen renewable fuels, such as wind and solar.

Environmental and advocacy groups, such as the Maryland Climate Coalition, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and the Sierra Club's Maryland Beyond Coal Campaign, issued statements supporting the override of the veto.

"In the current face of fear, uncertainty, and at times outright denial of environmental problems at the federal level, the Clean Energy Jobs Act proves that states like Maryland will not remain quiet on our country's toughest challenges like climate change," David Smedick, Maryland Beyond Coal Campaign and Policy representative for the Sierra Club, said in an emailed statement.

With the act's passage, Maryland follows other states and cities such as California, New York, Hawaii and the District of Columbia in adopting more aggressive renewable targets.