Who is USSEC?
The Utility-Scale Solar Energy Coalition, or USSEC, is a coalition of solar companies actively investing in Maryland and developing utility-scale solar projects, or “solar farms,” across the state. The utility-scale solar segment of the Maryland solar market includes numerous projects under development across 20 Maryland counties, representing over $2 billion in potential capital investment across Maryland.1
The utility-scale solar projects currently under development in Maryland represent the potential for over $20 million in direct property tax revenue to counties and local communities just in their first year of operation and each year thereafter.2
Those same projects equate to an average of 6,000 construction jobs per year over the next decade and hundreds of permanent jobs during project operations over several decades. Further, the projects correspond to $3.8 billion in worker earnings and nearly $5.5 billion in value added to the Maryland economy.3
USSEC is focused on advancing Maryland’s renewable energy generation goals through three key priorities in 2018/2019:
- Passage of the Maryland Clean Energy Jobs Act in the 2019 legislative session
- Development of equitable land use policies that treat responsibly-developed solar farms fairly and recognize solar’s environmental, economic, and fiscal benefits
- Advancement of policies and practices that make solar farms even more environmentally friendly
Over 100 legislative candidates and current legislators have expressed their support for the RPS expansion by becoming a Friend of Solar
If you are a legislator or candidate interested in becoming a Friend of Solar, please fill out and return our Friend of Solar questionnaire here
USSEC has awarded the Solar Champions Award to two legislators that have provided exceptional support to solar throughout their careers: Delegate Luke Clippinger and Senator Brian Feldman
WHAT IS THE CLEAN ENERGY JOBS ACT?
The proposed Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) of 2018 (HB 1453/SB 0732) expands the current RPS from 25% by 2020 to 50% by 2030. CEJA expands the solar carve-out to 14.5% by 2028, a significant boost to Maryland’s in-state solar industry vs. the current 2.5% solar carve-out.It also helps provide long-term stability to Maryland’s SREC market by significantly increasing its size and depth, which helps reduce volatility vs. a much smaller market size.The Clean Energy Jobs Act significantly lowers the Alternative Compliance Payments (ACPs) for both solar and Tier 1 RECs over time. ACPs represent a price cap that limits the potential cost of RPS compliance, which protects rate-payers from increased energy costs.
During the 2018 session the Department of Legislative Services determined that the The Clean Energy Jobs Act would cost the average Maryland rate-payer between $1.40 and $1.85 per month, a sum that is significantly less than the direct wages paid to Maryland workers in constructing renewable energy projects over that same time period.A broad coalition is continuing to push for the CEJA’s passage in the 2019 legislative session.
Unlike other efforts to significantly increase Maryland’s share of renewable energy, the Clean Energy Jobs Act has broad support from all segments of the renewables industry, including wind and solar. CEJA is based on Maryland’s existing RPS system, making its adoption, implementation, and administration much easier than new structures and approaches that have been proposed, some of which may require years of work before being practically or politically feasible. In 2018, the Clean Energy Jobs Act was co-sponsored by a majority of Maryland’s State Senators and Delegates.
Why Is Support for the Clean Energy Jobs Act Important And Why Now?
Action is Needed
Thanks to the rapidly declining cost of solar modules, the Maryland solar industry has quickly outpaced the existing and relatively small 2.5% solar carve-out of the Maryland RPS, which has resulted in a crash in SREC prices, declining in value from $150 in late 2015 to $20 in late 2016 to $5 today.This has resulted in stalled growth of solar economic development and even job losses across the state.4 In fact, in 2017, Maryland was one of only two mid-Atlantic states (alongside West Virginia) to see a net loss of solar jobs.
Without a significant expansion in the RPS and solar carve-out, the Maryland solar industry will continue to stagnate and decline. In fact, even if Maryland does not install a single new solar panel, the current amount of solar installed in the state will meet the existing modest RPS demand through 2023!
With a stalled solar industry, Maryland is at risk of failing to attract corporations that are seeking to locate and power large facilities such as data centers with in-state solar resources. Maryland risks losing a competitive advantage to Virginia, which has seen investments in excess of $1 billion for new data centers that create local jobs and are powered by local solar farms in Virginia.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act updates RPS-driven solar demand to accommodate the addition of new solar generation capacity annually through the next decade, all while significantly capping the cost of compliance in order to minimize cost to rate-payers.
Urgency of the Opportunity
Solar jobs and in-state investment are currently at-risk due to the industry outpacing the existing 2.5% solar carve-out of the Maryland RPS. Significant increases in solar demand beyond the 2016 Clean Energy Jobs targets are required to preserve and expand Maryland's solar jobs and associated economic benefits.
Federal tax policy currently provides a 30% Investment Tax Credit (ITC) which can result in substantial savings for Maryland ratepayers. But the full 30% ITC is significantly reduced between 2019 through 2021, stepping down from 30% for projects that start construction by Dec 31, 2019 to 10% for projects that start construction after Dec 31, 2021. Expanding the Maryland RPS immediately through 2019 passage of the Clean Energy Jobs Act can ensure that Maryland rate-payers maximize the full benefit of the 30% ITC.
Benefits to Maryland
Solar projects, from utility-scale solar farms to residential rooftops, offer significant economic, fiscal, and environmental benefits to Maryland. An April 2018 study5 by consulting firm Daymark Energy Advisors that was commissioned by the Maryland Public Service Commission and conducted with input and direction by Maryland’s four investor owned utilities estimated that the benefit of significant additions of solar generation in Maryland far outweighs the cost6, with the majority of those benefits comprising of economic benefits to the state and to local communities.The study also determined that Maryland has significant potential for future solar additions in excess of the 14.5% solar carve-out by 2028 enabled in the Clean Energy Jobs Act.Solar thus represents a huge opportunity for economic development for Marylanders for the next decade.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act would result in over 20,000 new full-time high-paying jobs in the Maryland solar industry (up from 5,400 through 2016).Unlike some industries, these jobs are distributed throughout the state, supporting a diverse workforce from the rural corners of Maryland to the state’s suburbs and inner-cities.
TAX REVENUE (particularly in rural areas)
Utility-scale solar projects currently under development in Maryland would pay nearly $20m in direct property tax revenues to local communities in just their first year of operations, much of it directly to rural county coffers, providing much needed funds for schools, roads, parks, and services for rural communities without the need for development of costly new services like sewer and water.In some rural counties tax revenues from utility-scale solar projects can actually allow county leaders to avoid increases to income tax rates that would otherwise be required to provide basic local services.
Independence from imports and fuel price spikes
Maryland continues to import 40% of its energy from out-of-state, mostly from coal and gas plants that are vulnerable to significant fuel price fluctuation. The Clean Energy Jobs Act supports in-state generation by increasing in-state solar generation from 2.5% to 14.5%.
Expanding the use of renewables, which require no fuel and have virtually no operating costs, increases the stability of power prices for Maryland’s residents and businesses
Expanding the Maryland RPS is an important step in continuing Maryland’s leadership in the fight against climate change. Maryland is among the states most vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change, which will have far-reaching economic impacts on the Chesapeake Bay and in particular to Maryland’s farming communities.Maryland’s air quality will also improve with more investment in local, clean energy sources.