Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s energy administration is proposing one of the most ambitious yet costly energy conservation packages, including goals to reduce electricity consumption by 15% and to mandate state utility companies to purchase 20% of their energy from solar, wind and other renewable fuels by 2022. If the companies do not, the fines will be doubled. O’Malley believes a cap-and-trade system will generate enough revenue to provide incentives for electricity users to conserve and use more energy efficient appliances.
Legislators, state or national, should be wary of implementing cap-and-trade systems to reduce emissions. Cap-and-trade schemes often have volatile prices, and any revenue generated for consumer incentive as a result of a cap-and-trade system is ultimately paid for by the consumer through higher electricity costs. In fact, Allegheny Power in Maryland recently sent energy efficient light bulbs to customers, and while many figured the bulbs to be a ‘free sample’, a subsequent surcharge appeared on all the customers’ energy bills without any warning.
Mandating certain percentages for renewable fuels further exacerbates the proposed legislation since renewables cannot compete with other sources of energy. As Ben Lieberman notes, renewable sources of energy have been receiving preferential treatment for years with unproven results. One source of energy that has proven results and already plays an integral role in Maryland’s energy portfolio is nuclear energy. Providing Maryland with almost 30% of its energy, nuclear energy is proven to be clean, safe and affordable. Yet, Governor O’Malley completely neglects nuclear in his energy plan. If emissions free energy without a significant cost to the consumer is what O’Malley desires, he would be remiss not to include nuclear.