When you think about renewable energy, what comes to mind?
You might think about solar power - and community solar makes solar power accessible to all. You might think about wind power - and offshore wind turbines are soon to be built off the coast of Ocean City. You might think about geothermal or hydropower - harnessing natural resources, emissions-free.
But do you think about burning trash and poop or manufacturing methane?
Maryland created a Renewable Portfolio Standard program in 2004 to subsidize new renewable energy development, with money from our utility bills. But over time, it’s gotten dirtier and dirtier. Burning chicken litter for energy was placed in the top-tier, most-subsidized “renewable energy” category in 2008, a boon to factory farms on the Eastern Shore. Trash incineration was moved to the same “renewable energy” category in 2011, a giveaway to proposed incinerators facing staunch community opposition in Frederick and in Baltimore. Burning wood products counts as renewable, and the industry has been pushing this year to add even more forestry products to the program - despite the significant greenhouse gas emissions and public health harm that such facilities produce. So does using food waste, manure, and other organic materials to produce methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Meanwhile, dollars spent on these dirty “renewable” energy sources mean dollars not spent on real, emissions-free renewables. We pay more than $100 million into the RPS program every year, and in 2019, $32 million of that - one third of our renewable energy money - went to polluters. We deserve to know that every one of those dollars is going where it belongs: real renewable energy. In the face of the climate crisis mounting every day, this can’t go on any longer.
The Reclaim Renewable Energy Act fixes this dirty secret. It defines renewable energy as really renewable energy, and puts our dollars into it - not into polluters.