After veto override, renewable energy and electricity bills on the rise in Maryland
State lawmakers voted overwhelmingly Thursday to override Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto of a bill to increase the use of renewable energy in the state.
The legislation, which will require utility companies in Maryland to buy more energy from sources such as wind turbines, solar panels and hydroelectric dams, became law when the Democratic-controlled General Assembly voted to override the Republican governor.
Hogan and GOP lawmakers objected to the cost to consumers. The requirement is expected to make electricity more expensive, but it’s not clear by how much.
Democrats argued that the requirement will boost the renewable energy industry, create high-paying jobs, reduce air pollution and combat climate change at a small cost to consumers.
“There’s an economic argument, we’ve got an environmental argument, and then there are some health benefits as well,” said Sen. Brian Feldman, a Montgomery County Democrat. “All three of these put together far, far exceed whatever possible small incremental residential rate impacts we have.”
Republicans said any increase in electricity prices amounts to a tax that many Marylanders can’t afford.
Sen. Ed Reilly said businesses, too, will have higher electricity bills, a cost they will pass on to customers.
“I’m convinced this increase in costs is a hidden tax,” the Anne Arundel Republican said.
The law requires that one-quarter of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2020. That’s more energy, and sooner, than the prior requirement of 20 percent by 2022.
Nonpartisan legislative analysts estimated it might raise residential electricity bills by 48 cents to $1.45 per month.
Hogan, his Change Maryland organization and the Maryland Republican Party launched an aggressive campaign to sustain the veto.
The governor derided the new renewable energy requirement as a “sunshine and wind tax,” and his campaign paid for a website that enabled Marylanders to send emails asking lawmakers to stop it.
Republican senators delayed the override attempt for a week in hopes of gaining time to pick off Democratic votes.