Renewable Energy for a Sustainable Future
“Sustainability and the Environment” are becoming an integral component of economic and business development strategies and goals. In Greater Baltimore, the energy industry is growing more and more robust as the Region’s wealth of assets in research and development increasingly include renewable energy as critical to growing an innovative, environmentally healthy, and sustainable economy.
In 2020, Maryland ranked sixth in the nation among states with policies, programs, and efforts to save energy and pursue efficiency as a cost-effective, critical tool for slashing emissions. Moreover, there are several initiatives underway that are propelling Greater Baltimore forward and creating momentum for the expanded use of renewable energy across the Region. The non-profit and public sectors are increasing their focus and resources with several programs, including:
- The Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC) (www.mdcleanenergy.org), established by the Maryland General Assembly in 2008, has programs to help foster the growth of clean energy businesses and increase job opportunities. The Maryland Energy Innovation Accelerator (www.mdeia.org), is another organization that in partnership with Maryland universities and labs is bringing cleantech ‘from bench to business’ while focusing on diverse technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the use of renewable forms of energy including solar, wind, hydro, and batteries. MCEC’s co-location with the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute (MEII) (https://energy.umd.edu/) at the University of Maryland in College Park helps them achieve their collective missions to catalyze research into marketable clean technologies.
- The BlueTechMD initiative is a consortium of for-profits, universities, and non-profits recently created to work collectively to bring to the state entrepreneurs and investors involved in “blue tech,” defined as aquaculture, offshore wind, ocean and harbor restoration, and maritime science. In partnership with TEDCO, Maryland Momentum Fund, Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology, University System of Maryland and others, this consortium is running a conference and business plan competition in November 2021 to increase investment and other resources for startups and emerging blue tech companies.
Two readily available sources for renewable energy are solar and wind. Research focused on increasing the efficiency and accessibility of converting these “commodities” into energy is ongoing with several private sector companies expanding their work in Greater Baltimore. Examples include Lumina Solar, a Baltimore County-based company that provides customers with “A to Z” services to assist them in converting to solar energy, and Ørsted, a European company that has established a center at Tradepoint Atlantic in Baltimore County to produce the infrastructure and equipment necessary for offshore wind energy production. For more information about Lumina Solar and Ørsted, be sure to read this month’s Industry Spotlight section.
Considerable efforts are also underway at both Constellation and BGE to educate consumers of the advantages of converting to renewable forms of energy and providing access to those forms. BGE’s commitment to increasing the use of renewable forms of energy is primarily focused on programs directed to the residential customer. Of particular importance are programs that will increase the availability of alternative energy in economically disadvantaged communities and communities in less populated areas. BGE also has another program that focuses on building a network of charging stations for electric vehicles located in public areas near libraries and parks.
While providing access is critical, expanding the availability of electric vehicles as an acceptable and increasingly cost-effective mode of transportation is as important if the use of alternative energy forms is to become the norm. Through a U.S. Department of Energy grant, BGE is partnering with LYFT to use their electric vehicles for ride-sharing programs in disadvantaged communities. BGE is also exploring several other programs to increase use of clean and renewable energy, including a pilot program for “community solar” that would allow for several residential customers to access solar energy and technologies that increase battery storage options and promote the widespread use of smart charging technologies in order to decrease cost by monitoring use and incentivizing “off-peak” charging at home.
Constellation, the largest supplier of energy in the Greater Baltimore region, includes solar, wind, and hydro in its renewable energy portfolio. As the demand for renewables increases, particularly with large institutional and corporate users, Constellation focuses on simplifying how these large users can easily convert to renewable energy by facilitating the procurement and implementation of the new form of energy.
Constellation recognizes that broader acceptance and use of renewable energy requires reducing the cost and increasing the accessibility and ease of implementation. Through its CORe renewable energy purchasing solution, Constellation is providing businesses access to offsite energy generation by structuring a “retail power contract” for the customer to execute, drastically simplifying the often-complicated process of locating sources, negotiating terms and implementing a new delivery system. Additionally, through its Efficiency Made Easy (EME) program, Constellation is working with businesses to reduce energy costs, manage usage and meet sustainability goals. Since being established in 2011, the EME program has helped to fund over $350 million in energy efficiency projects for more than 1,100 customers.
Another source of renewal energy that can be converted to fuel is biomass. Through efforts led by the Howard County Economic Development Authority’s (HCEDA) international business development initiative, Bioenergy DevCo recently opened their flagship anaerobic digestion facility in the Maryland Food Center campus in Howard County (see this edition’s Industry Spotlight for additional information). The facility uses anaerobic digestion to recycle organics once destined for incineration or in already crowded landfills. This process creates renewable natural gas and healthy living soils.
In Greater Baltimore and throughout Maryland, increased and ongoing investment in the generation of electricity from renewable sources as well as acceptance of these sources by the consumer – both residential and commercial – are the strong building blocks necessary to ensure that the state reaches its goal of achieving 50% renewable energy by 2030.