Maryland can meet climate goals and keep down utility rates
In a recent commentary ("Utility regulator: Md. must consider cost to ratepayers in setting clean energy goals," June 26), Jason Stanek, the outgoing chair of the Maryland Public Service Commission, recently urged Maryland policymakers and elected officials to exercise restraint and to temper our ambitious energy goals to consider the cost on ratepayers. I agree we need to protect ratepayers from steep rate increases, but timidity in the face of climate catastrophe is not the answer. We can cut pollution and protect ratepayers through innovative policy solutions.
The idea that we can either accelerate our clean energy future or protect utility customers is a false premise. While some clean energy subsidies have been incorporated into utility rates, this is not the only way forward. Just this year I introduced the POWER Act, which was passed by the General Assembly. It included an innovative procurement method to purchase more offshore wind, without the risk or subsidy being shouldered by ratepayers. This pioneering approach is now receiving national attention and provides a model for how we can rapidly increase our investment in clean energy with policies to ensure ratepayers are not covering the costs of that transition.
Protecting ratepayers also requires us to reign in excessive and unnecessary capital spending on the part of the utilities—especially spending on fossil fuel infrastructure likely to be obsolete in the near future—through greater transparency and accountability in distribution system planning and in rate-making processes at the Public Service Commission.
Now is not the time to slow down our transition to a more sustainable energy future and all of the economic benefits it will bring to our state. Half-measures will neither achieve our laudable energy goals nor protect ratepayers. Now is the time to take decisive and determined action as we build a new clean energy economy. I thank Chair Stanek for his years of service working to move Maryland towards a brighter energy future. As we continue and expand that work, I would urge us to go hard, be bold and get creative.
- Lorig Charkoudian, Takoma Park
The writer, a Democrat, represents District 20 (Montgomery County) in the Maryland House of Delegates.