OPINION: The Plan for Secure Energy

By Governor Martin O'Malley

This week, I am honored to be in Denver with the Maryland Delegation at the Democratic National Convention. As Marylanders, and as Americans, we are united in our belief that our tomorrows can indeed be better than our today – but only if we have the courage and the conviction to address our challenges head on.

Recently, I addressed the annual gathering of the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) about an issue which stands directly in the path of our progress as a state and our nation – securing our energy future.

Over the past seventeen months, we've waged every battle on behalf of Maryland's families and consumers. So far we have recovered $2 billion dollars for consumers – the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history. We have also won a major victory with federal regulators, ending unfair practices that added $85 million a year in costs to our energy bills. We have successfully fought to strike down rules that were allowing generators to charge above market prices. And we've been able to successfully assemble and lead a coalition of four States, consumer advocates, industrial users, municipal power companies and co-ops in a $12 billion complaint with federal regulators against overcharges that the citizens of our State and others have been unfairly forced into paying by utility providers.

But the road ahead is going to be far more challenging. We've proposed a series of initiatives that will help Maryland secure our energy future for the long-term by:

Developing of local partnerships to build smaller scale “peaking plants” that can actually feed into the grid when the demand for electricity is at its highest.

Using our collective market power to jumpstart large-scale, commercial renewable energy projects. And by offering long-term contracts for clean, renewable power, we can accelerate the arrival of more commercial-scale projects like Delaware's off-shore wind farm or others.

Accelerating the use of Smart Meters and Smart Pricing for consumers in order to reduce consumption and, therefore, reduce the rate of demand growth.

Maintaining on-site generation that can also come to the aid of our entire State by working as peaking units.

Assisting our lower income neighbors who are struggling to afford energy prices during these difficult economic times.

This week, the Public Service Commission issued an order which represents the first step toward directing utilities to either find or build new generation to address any future supply shortfalls that the market is not reasonably expected to deliver in time for us to keep the lights on in 2011, 2012, and the years that follow.

We cannot stand idly by and wait for market forces or the electricity “good fairy” to come in and solve this problem for us. Deregulation has failed us. Four years of a Public Service Commission unwilling to stand up for the citizens of Maryland have failed us. And while those years are now behind us, the challenges ahead of us to provide relief to families struggling to keep the lights on will not come easily, nor will they come without Maryland united in the realities of the work ahead.

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