Capacity and conservation pivotal to solving Maryland’s energy crisis

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Maryland faces a growing energy crisis, GBC leaders warned at the organization’s annual meeting on May 7.

The state’s power infrastructure is aging and demand for electricity in Maryland is increasing eight times faster than its generating capacity. Maryland currently imports more than 25 percent of electricity sold to customers in the state, according to Maryland Public Service Commission data.

Meanwhile, stricter federal and state regulations are causing energy providers to consider closing some of the state’s older, coal-fired plants. The Healthy Air Act passed during Maryland’s 2006 legislative session establishes more stringent rules on greenhouse gas emissions.

If the owners decide to keep the older facilities running, the Maryland Public Service Commission estimates it would require more than $2 billion in capital improvements. Unfortunately, most or all of these costs may ultimately be passed on to consumers in the generation price of electricity.

However, the PSC predicts owners of at least two Maryland coal-fired power plants will weigh whether it is possible – or worthwhile – to install the necessary equipment needed to comply with the new regulations. Currently, coal plants in Maryland generate approximately 4,958 megawatts – nearly half of the state’s total energy generation, PSC data shows.

Solving Maryland’s energy crisis begins with decreasing consumption and increasing the supply of electricity throughout the state.

There needs to be more aggressive public awareness to educate consumers and businesses about using energy efficiently. The state must work with the business community to pursue practical and effective energy conservation strategies and develop more incentives to encourage residents to use energy during off-peak hours.

Maryland also needs to enact policies that promote upgrading the electricity infrastructure for generation, transmission, distribution and environmental compliance. The state must add new transmission infrastructure by 2011 to increase its electricity importing capacity, as well as adopt a strategic plan that includes construction of new efficient, environmentally compliant power plants.

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