O'Malley Touts Offshore Wind Farms - Southern Maryland Headline News

O'Malley Touts Offshore Wind Farms


By KERRY DAVIS

ANNAPOLIS (March 3, 2011) — Gov. Martin O'Malley told legislators in the House Economic Matters Committee Thursday that offshore wind energy would create jobs and help the environment.

House Bill 1054 would contractually obligate utility companies to purchase some energy from offshore wind production companies for at least 20 years once wind turbines are built. If passed, local steel workers and energy companies are hoping to build the windmills in the Atlantic Ocean, about 12 miles offshore of Ocean City.

O'Malley said the cost to implement the bill would be worth it.

"This I believe is a reasonable risk to take, if we believe that in fact, greenhouse gas emissions won't reduce themselves on their own and if we believe that in this competition for jobs, Maryland is worth fighting for," O'Malley said outside the hearing room.

But many utility companies and some business organizations are against the bill, telling the committee that it would give unfair advantage to some companies.

"Are you going to pick out a couple select winners and subsidize them - that's what this is really about," said Glen Thomas, president of GT Power Group.

The Maryland Chamber of Commerce, Maryland Conservation Council, Maryland Farm Bureau and Maryland Energy Group also filed statements against the bill.

There's already a dispute about how much the bill would cost energy consumers. A Department of Legislative Services fiscal and policy note estimates that residential consumers will see rate increases of about $3.61 a month in 2016.

But O'Malley and his team believe it would actually cost consumers $1.44 more each month.

"It's a minimal amount of dollars we're talking about, the equivalent of two 60-watt light bulbs a month," O'Malley said. "And over the long-term it actually reduces the cost to consumers if we assume that the cost of fossil fuels and that commodity price will actually continue to go up, as it has since the beginning of time."

A group of union members hoping to be hired to build the turbines came to the meeting in support of the bill, wearing green T-shirts that read, "Jobs Jobs Jobs."

"We have better quality products and we make a good quality steel," said Bruce Baldwin, 58, lamenting how many manufacturing jobs have moved overseas.

The steel workers were joined in support by environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Environment Maryland and Maryland's National Wildlife Federation.

The Sierra Club said the average homeowner's utility bill increase will be negligible.

"It's worth it in the long run," said David O'Leary, the Sierra Club's Maryland Conservation Chair.

Press Release from Governor O’Malley's Office

Governor Martin O'Malley today appeared before the House of Delegates’ Economic Matters Committee to testify in support of the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2011, which will require that public utilities leverage Maryland's outstanding offshore wind resources by entering into long-term purchase agreements with wind power generation facilities off of the Mid-Atlantic coast. The Governor was joined by the Secretary of Business and Economic Development, Secretary of Natural Resources and the Director of the Maryland Energy Administration, underscoring the bill’s importance in leveraging Maryland’s natural assets to promote ‘green’ job creation and generate much needed clean, renewable energy.

“In this competitive new economy, the states that win will be those that succeed in leveraging innovation into job creation and economic growth,” said Governor O’Malley. “In Maryland, our emerging green sector is a critically important part of our Innovation Economy, and therefore our ability to create jobs and compete globally. This bill would move us forward towards a prosperous, thriving Maryland powered by sustainable, clean energy.”

An analysis conducted at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the US Department of Energy estimates that offshore wind will create more than twenty direct jobs per annual megawatt, including jobs in manufacturing, engineering, and skilled labor. A 500MW wind generation facility in the waters off of the Delmarva coast could generate as many as 2,000 manufacturing and construction jobs during the five-year development period, with an additional 400 permanent jobs once the turbines are spinning.

Due to its ideal location in the Mid-Atlantic, as well as the deep-water port and manufacturing infrastructure in Baltimore, Maryland is well positioned to be a leader not only in offshore wind energy generation, but also in ongoing construction and maintenance.

In addition to creating new ‘green’ jobs, harnessing the potential of offshore wind power will generate much needed clean, renewable energy, and promote long-term price stability while helping to ensure that Maryland meets its Renewable Portfolio Standard goal of generating 20% of its energy from renewable resources by 2022.

The bill seeks to diversify the terms by which energy is purchased in Maryland by requiring long-term power-purchase agreements with offshore wind generation facilities, which would be located more than 10 miles from Maryland’s Atlantic coast. These purchase agreements allow Maryland to lock-in rates over the long-term, providing price stability and predictability in what is otherwise a potentially volatile commodity market.

The bill would require that public utilities purchase between 400-600 megawatts (MW) of power from offshore wind generation facilities in federal waters adjacent to the PJM Control Area for a period of twenty or more years. For residential ratepayer, the PSC currently directs the utilities to procure approximately 25% of their power at a time, in two year contracts, making ratepayers vulnerable to periodic increases in the market price of energy–particularly electricity based on fossil fuel resources. 500 MW of offshore wind energy is enough to power more than half of the homes in the City of Baltimore, or 79% of the homes on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

“Off-shore wind has the potential to be a big “win” for our State: a win for jobs, a win for consumers, a win for business, and a win for our energy future—an energy future which is cleaner, greener, more sustainable, and more affordable,” said Governor O’Malley.

For more information on offshore wind in Maryland, click here (http://www.governor.maryland.gov/documents/offshorewindfactsheet.pdf) to view relevant facts and figures.

For more information, visit the Maryland Energy Administration (http://energy.maryland.gov/).

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