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Wind and efficiency make big gains!

Posted on: January 24, 2012

Looks like Maryland could be seeing some huge steps forward in energy efficiency in the coming months. After a long opposition, Governor O’Malley and other state officials have reached a settlement with the Constellation Energy Group, parent company of BGE, to allow them to merge with Exelon Energy. The settlement requires Exelon to invest 125 megawatts of in-state wind generation over the next 10 years, and to create a $32 million fund to support offshore wind development along Maryland’s Atlantic coast. The new wind power could be enough to power 40,000 Maryland homes.

The settlement also requires Exelon to invest in 30 megawatts of solar energy by 2015 along with $70 million in energy efficiency and weatherization assistance to Maryland residents, including low income families. The costs must be paid by Exelon – they cannot be passed on to BGE customers.

Healthier Environment, Healthier People

 “This settlement means healthier lungs for our kids and a healthier environment for all of us,” says Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “It means Maryland is one step closer to developing a home-grown manufacturing base for wind turbines and an overall economy that helps solve global warming.”

Several Maryland environmental groups, including CCAN, officially intervened in the merger and helped push for major renewable energy development as a condition of the merger.

Thousands of Jobs in the Process

In all, the settlement will result in $1 billion in new energy investments in Maryland, creating about 6,000 new jobs. It also includes the construction of an Exelon headquarters facility in Baltimore that will be built to LEED-certified silver energy-efficiency standards.

While definitely a positive move, there are some aspects of the settlement that should be watched. The agreement requires 120 megawatts of new natural gas-fired generation in the state even as concerns rise about the expanding and potentially harmful drilling technique known as “fracking.” In addition, the agreement will lead to 10-25 megawatts of new power generation from animal waste combustion, a process that comes with its own environmental challenges.

Still, the merger advances an overall positive solution for sustainable energy in Maryland. The $32 million fund for offshore wind development, for example, could greatly assist lawmakers as they prepare to vote in 2012 on an O’Malley-sponsored bill to incentivize construction of a 500 megawatt wind farm off the coast of Ocean City. That project alone could power most of the Maryland’s Eastern Shore and create 2,400 jobs.

More on the Settlement

The settlement also includes Up to 300 megawatts in new power generation in Maryland within 10 years. Here’s a look at the terms of the settlement at a glance:

  • 10 megawatts to 25 megawatts from poultry manure plant, the first in the state.
  • 30 megawatts of solar in Baltimore and other municipalities east of Frederick.
  • 125 megawatts fueled by wind farms and other renewable resources.
  • 120 megawatts of natural gas generation.
  • $30 million for offshore wind development fund.
  • $10 million to Empower energy efficiency efforts.
  • $10 million to help electricity customers pay bills.
  • $50 million to support weatherization efforts for low- to moderate-income homes.
  • Maryland Public Service Commission retains right to spin off BGE in certain circumstances.

To learn more about what the settlement means for you, click here or call James A. Wheat & Sons today!