On Monday, April 11th the General Assembly wrapped up their work for the 2016 Session. During this session, the MCEC Legislative Committee reviewed 35 proposed bills and took positions on 18 energy related bills. The following content is offered as a summary of the activity that took place during the session along with projections of issues that may surface again in the 2017 session.
GREENHOUSE GAS REDUCTION
In the category of good news for clean energy advocates is the passage of HB 610- SB 323 "Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act- Reauthorization,"which have already been signed by Governor Hogan. The bills call for a statewide reduction of GHG by 40% from 2006 levels by 2030, making this a larger reduction of GHG.
RPS GOALS INCREASED
HB 1106-SB 921 "Clean Energy Jobs - Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Revisions," also passed. These bills essentially increase the RPS for Tier I sources to 25% by 2020 with 2.5% solar carve-out. Language for the version that finally passed includes a component for workforce and minority-owned business development is available via these links: http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/2016RS/bills/hb/hb1106e.pdf
However, advocates have expressed concern that the Governor may be unwilling to sign the bill and are urging supporters to contact his office to encourage him to sign it into law. To contact Governor Hogan and express your opinion use this link:
Attempts to modify the RPS eliminating biomass and waste-to-energy (WTE) from Tier I status failed with unfavorable reports given in committee for HB 1287-SB 867 "Public Utilities - Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard - Eligible Sources."
NO GO ON GREEN BANK, BUT MCEC FUNDED
The MCEC Green Bank bills,HB 705- SB 726 "Maryland Clean Energy Center - Clean Energy Technology Funding" eeked out at the last minute but with significant changes to the proposed language filed at the start of session. Although no commitment was made to fund a broader Green Bank Investment pool at this time, MCEC was awarded a grant appropriation of $3.3M from the Strategic Energy Investment Fund for General Administration purposes.
Senate Bill 726 was renamed, "Maryland Clean Energy Center Taskforce," and passed with language preferred by the Hogan Administration. The bill directs that there be a "Task Force on the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC) to determine how best to make MCEC self-sustaining without deviating from its mission and charge." Assuming that the Governor signs the bill, this work group will be staffed by the Department of Legislative Services and the Department of Commerce, culminating with a report due to the Governor and General Assembly by December 1, 2016.
The Task Force's charge is to, "assess the programs currently provided by MCEC and the programs that, within its mission, charge, and structure, may be provided by MCEC, including the establishment of a green bank;" and specifically:
- review existing State financing instrumentalities that may have similar financing capabilities for purposes of determining whether there are advantages to MCEC to coordinate or partner with those State financing instrumentalities on financing programs;
- identify the availability of resource capacity in State financing instrumentalities for purposes of determining whether there are cost-effective opportunities for MCEC to share resources with those State financing instrumentalities on financing programs;
- review other cost-effective opportunities, including having MCEC co-locate with another State financing instrumentality or State agency, that may assist MCEC during the time when MCEC is working toward becoming self-sustaining;
- determine whether the outstanding balance of loans initiated in fiscal 2009 from the Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) should be converted to a grant and considered as start-up funds as a way in assisting MCEC to become self-sustaining;
- determine an appropriate amount of State annual grant funding that MCEC should receive for operating and program assistance as MCEC works toward becoming self-sustaining and in no further need of operating and program support from the Strategic Energy Investment Fund or any other State money; and
- consider any other related matter that the task force determines appropriate
While it is too early to predict whether or not Green Bank investment could be on the agenda in a future session, interested stakeholders should stay engaged with MCEC to encourage a desirable outcome!
Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing (PACE) tools have begun to be implemented for commercial projects in Maryland but the previous enabling legislation capped the capacity of solar installations financed with PACE lending to 100 kilowatts. Legislators lifted the cap with the passage of HB 105- SB 173 "Local Government - Clean Energy Loan Programs - Commercial Property Owners - Renewable Energy Projects," which advantageously impacts future projects.
PACE financing for energy improvements on residential properties has a complicated history as a result of mortgage lender concerns but, the concept is being resurrected by community leaders in the region. While Maryland has already enacted enabling legislation to allow for the implementation of Residential PACE programs on the county level, modifications seem necessary to make such lending programs workable.
Although some modifications were proposed this session in HB 387- SB 912 "Clean Energy Loan Program - Residential Property - Study," the bill was passed with amendments calling for MCEC to lead a study of the opportunity to implement residential PACE financing program models throughout Maryland with a report due by October 1, 2016. The staff has begun to identify key stakeholders to involve in the related assessment. Specific language from the bill is provided below:
(1) The Maryland Clean Energy Center shall conduct a study to determine optimal design and implementation strategies for a residential clean energy loan program in the State.
(2) The study required under this subsection shall include consideration of whether the strategies will work advantageously with loans made by private lenders for residential energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
(3) In conducting the study required under this subsection, the Center shall consult with:
(i) the Maryland Energy Administration;
(ii) the Maryland Association of Counties;
(iii) the Maryland Bankers' Association;
(iv) clean energy loan providers;
(v) the Chesapeake Climate Action Network; and
(vi) the Sierra Club.
ENERGY STORAGE INCENTIVES IN THE DRAWER UNTIL NEXT YEAR
Several bills were introduced during session with the promise of helping advance the adoption of energy storage technologies for grid resiliency but were withdrawn by the sponsor or failed in committee. MCEC has agreed to work with the sponsors and industry stakeholders over the interim to analyze the bills and hopefully position them for success in the coming session.
HB 787 "Electricity - Energy Storage Systems (Storage Technology and Electric Power (STEP) Act)" andHB 821 "Energy Storage Portfolio Standard (Storage Technology and Electric Power (STEP) Act)" were introduced by Delegate Marc Korman, each bill taking different approaches to achieve similar goals.
With no action taken this session, HB 386- SB 384 "Income Tax Credit - Energy Storage Systems" introduced by Delegate Kirill Reznik and Senator Guy Guzzone, intended to provide tax credits for related equipment purchased and installed.
SPEEDY INTERCONNECTIONS BY UTILITIES NOW MANDATED FOR SOLAR INSTALLATIONS
HB 440- SB 811 "Electric Companies - Installation of Solar Electric Generating Facility - Completion of Interconnection" passed, requiring an electric company to complete interconnection requirements of a customer-generator's solar electric generating facility with the electric company's distribution facilities by providing acceptance and final approval to operate within 20 business days after completion of a specified installation process.
Another Solar related bill was introduced by Delegate Benjamin Brooks late in the session but stalled in the Rules Committee was HB 1599 "Real Property - Restrictions on Use - Solar Collector Systems." The bill would have prohibited the installation of solar collector systems on the land of residential real property.
AN EDUCATED CONSUMER IS THE BEST CUSTOMER?
HB 1144 "Gas and Electric Companies - Retail Choice Customer Education and Protection Fund"brought to the floor by Delegate Warren Miller, passed this session. The bill called for penalty fees assessed as fines for violations by retail energy service choice providers be utilized as part of a customer education initiative managed by the Maryland Public Service Commission.
However, HB 295 "Electricity - Explanation of Bill Charges"sponsored by Delegate Carol Krimm would have required utilities to provide an explanation of specified charges on ratepayer bills was defeated in House Economic Matters.
HVAC CONSIDERATIONS ONLY HALF WAY TO HOMEPLATE
Two bills of interest to the HVAC contractor community that seemingly had some traction this session, passing unopposed out of the Senate, were oddly stalled in the house with unfavorable reports from the House Economic Matters Committee are:
HB 1568-SB 954 "State Board of Heating, Ventilation, Air-Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors - Maintenance Technician - License Requirements" sponsored by Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti and Senator Katherine Klausmeier, intended to loosen certain restrictions on licensed journeymen, capable but currently not allowed to perform work in field installations approvals to perform tasks that are otherwise done by master licensed professionals who usually bill at higher costs per hour.
Delegate Lisanti and Senator John Astle introduced HB 1569-SB 864 "Energy Efficiency Programs - Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Services" which would have prohibited, "an affiliate of an electric company from using the electric company's trade name, logo, billing services, mail inserts, advertising, or computer services for a plan or program that provides heating, ventilation, air conditioning, or refrigeration services."
HB 1611 "Income Tax Credit - HVAC Energy Efficiency Technology" introduced by Delegate Sheila Hixson aimed to provide beneficial tax relief to consumers installing more energy efficient HVAC equipment, which is a costly investment for most homeowners, did not move out of committee.
SPEAKING OF TAX CREDITS
Delegate Frank Turner and Senator Roger Manno introduced HB 1145- SB 936 "Maryland Clean Energy Incentive Act of 2016," which passed thereby extending a, "specified credit against the State income tax for electricity produced by specified facilities from specified qualified energy resources, specifically biomass and agricultural waste as well as methane gas from anaerobic or thermal decomposition." The bill eliminated the credits for electricity produced using certain qualified energy resources co-fired with coal that were previously eligible for the credits.
EASING THE WAY FOR EVs
MCEC kept an eye on two bills introduced in the 2016 session to help facilitate the adoption of Electric Vehicles. HB 1179 "Vehicle Laws - HOV Lanes - Plug-In Electric Drive and Hybrid Vehicles" introduced by Delegate Herb McMillan passed this session to allow electric vehicle operators advantageous access to HOV lanes regardless of the number of passengers in the vehicle.
SB 168 "Real Property - Installation and Use of Electric Vehicle Recharging Equipment" introduced by Senator Brian Feldman failed in committee. The bill aimed to restrict homeowner associations from prohibiting the installation of charging equipment.
LATE TO THE PARTY BUT MAY BE BACK NEXT YEAR
HB 1276 "Electric Universal Service Program- Solar Procurement Study" was introduced by Delegate Luke Clippinger well after session started without a cross file bill and received an unfavorable report by House Economic Matters Committee. The bill would have required the Public Service Commission to study and make recommendations about the advisability of establishing a requirement for procuring a portion of the electricity supply for participants in the Electric Universal Service Program from specified solar and other carbon-free or low-carbon renewable sources. The concept has the backing of environmental and community advocates and is expected to be back next year.
To access versions of the final bills passed mentioned in this article search the bill number at:
For information about participating on the MCEC Legislative Committee or questions related to energy policy initiatives, contact the office via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 443-949-8505.