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February 4, 2013

Maryland Wants Wind

Maryland Governor Martin O’ Malley is standing by his promise to promote offshore wind development by championing the introduction of the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013.

The bill, introduced on January 21st, would be the second law of its kind that promotes offshore wind through the use of offshore wind renewable energy credits (ORECs). The law will require utilities in the state to provide to their ratepayers a certain amount of power generated from offshore wind energy. If passed, this bill will jumpstart a nascent industry and create Maryland-based manufacturing and maritime jobs. It will help spur the development of at least 200 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind off Maryland’s coast, which is enough to power about 200,000 homes with clean energy. And that is just the start.

Offshore wind has strong bipartisan support in Maryland. A recent poll shows that 77% of Maryland residents support offshore wind, and they are even willing to pay slightly more each month for electricity generated from this renewable energy resource. The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act would limit any electricity rate increases for consumers to less than $1.50 per month. When a similar bill was brought to a vote in the Maryland House of Delegates in March 2012 it passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 88 – 47.

Still today, the United States has not installed a single offshore wind turbine, but Europe is about to surpass 5 gigawatts (GW) of installed offshore wind power, and Europeans are already reaping the benefits of this renewable resource with good paying jobs and cleaner air. Japan, China and South Korea have also made plans for wind development. The United States is playing catch up, but we have a great resource in the Atlantic which has been dubbed the “Saudi Arabia” of offshore wind. Oceana supports responsible offshore wind development and the passage of this law in Maryland because it will be an important step to transitioning away from harmful fossil fuels, as well as risky offshore drilling practices.

Oceana was a leader in securing a recent extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for offshore wind, which will facilitate the growth of this renewable resource throughout 2013. Now, we and our allies will be pushing for quick passage of this bill in Maryland as well as a long term extension of the ITC to assure that this trend toward sustainable offshore energy continues. The political winds are favoring this bill in Maryland, but we need to keep the pressure on to make sure this time it gets done.