ANNAPOLIS—Maryland must lock in the jobs and clean energy created by building offshore wind farms, but if that energy costs too much, ratepayers should have an escape clause, Gov. Martin O’Malley said Thursday.
The Democratic governor lobbied members of the House Economic Matters Committee for his measure that would require state utilities to enter into long-term contracts to buy offshore wind energy, starting possibly as early as 2016.
Bringing offshore wind energy to Maryland will create new construction jobs and help clean the environment.
The administration estimates the mandatory energy contracts would raise the average homeowner’s electric bill by $1.44 a month. Maryland legislative analysts say bills would increase by $3.61 a month.
“This, I believe, is a reasonable risk to take if we in fact believe greenhouse gas emissions won’t reduce themselves on their own and we believe that, in this competition for jobs, Maryland is worth fighting for,” O’Malley said.
O’Malley is seeking changes to his own measure, which would establish an “escape clause” if wind energy proves too expensive. He also wants to increase the mandatory contract from 20 years to 25 years.
The escape clause would mandate that offshore wind companies complete a cost benefit analysis when they submit their plans to the Public Service Commission, said Malcolm Woolf, director of the Maryland Energy Administration.
“If the costs come in and they are too high, the PSC will say ’No,”’ Woolf said.
The Obama administration has outlined an area about 12 miles off the coast of Maryland where it would like to see offshore wind companies erect wind turbines. Eight companies — including one managed by O’Malley’s former chief of staff Michael Enright — have expressed interest in putting up turbines in that area.
If federal officials are successful in speeding up development of offshore wind energy, wind turbines could be spinning off the coast of Ocean City by 2016, Woolf said.
Delegate David Randolph, D-Harford, the committee’s vice chair, said the state’s utilities oppose the proposed offshore wind energy mandate.
“They all oppose your actions, even though they appreciate them,” Randolph said.
O’Malley has scrapped extensively with Constellation Energy CEO Mayo Shattuck through much of his first term, after campaigning against utility rate hikes in the Baltimore region.
The governor opened his second term with some jabs for the chief executive of Pepco after the Washington-area utility had extended outages following a storm in January.
“Whenever all the energy companies stand against me, I feel I must therefore be right,” O’Malley said.