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Research & Commentary: Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard Expansion Would Be Unwelcome News for Low-Income Marylanders

March 22, 2019

Bills Would Set Up A 50 Percent Mandate By 2030

Companion legislation in Maryland’s General Assembly would expand the state’s renewable energy mandate (REM), officially known as the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. The bill would force state utilities to produce 50 percent of their electricity generated from “renewable” sources by 2030 and shall have the state “conduct a supplemental study to assess the overall costs of increasing the [standard] to a goal of 100% renewable energy by 2040.”

Maryland’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, established in 2004, currently forces utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from “renewable” sources by 2020.

Renewable energy mandates such as the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard force expensive, heavily subsidized, and politically favored electricity sources such as wind and solar on ratepayers and taxpayers while providing few, if any, net environmental benefits. Even worse, these mandates disproportionally impact low-income households by raising their electric bills as well as the cost of all goods and services.

Unsurprisingly, in states with REMs, energy rates are rising twice as fast as the national average and states with renewable mandates had electricity prices 26 percent higher than those without. The 29 states with renewable energy mandates (plus the District of Columbia) had average retail electricity prices of 11.93 cents per kilowatt hour (cents/kWh), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. On the other hand, the 21 states without renewable mandates had average retail electricity prices of just 9.38 cents/kWh.

A study by the liberal Brookings Institution found replacing conventional power with wind power raises electricity prices 50 percent and replacing conventional power with solar power triples electricity costs. In just 12 states, the total net cost of the renewable mandates was $5.76 billion in 2016 and will rise to $8.80 billion in 2030, a 2016 study revealed. 

The American Action Forum estimates the costs of moving the entire country to 100 percent renewable sources would be around $5.7 trillion, and a brief from the Institute for Energy Research argues moving to 100 percent renewables is “nothing more than a myth.” “Batteries of the size and scope needed [to back up] 100-percent renewables are unproven and not cost effective,” the brief states. “Even if a 100 percent renewable future were feasible, the land requirements and costs of transitioning would be enormous.”

At 11.98 cents per kilowatt hour, retail electricity prices in Maryland are already 14 percent higher than the national average, and they are the 10th-highest in the continental United States. Moreover, a 2018 Wallet Hub study found Maryland has the 13th-highest total energy costs in the country, so legislators should refrain from taking any action that would cause these prices to increase.

The higher energy costs guaranteed by a switch from fossil fuels to higher-cost “renewable” electricity sources, such as wind or solar, lead to slower economic growth. Affordable energy is the key to productivity growth and the production of virtually all goods and services. Expansion of the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard would make everything more expensive for working families in Maryland, raise costs for businesses, and have an insignificant effect on global carbon dioxide emissions. For the good of all Marylanders, legislators should reject any expansion of the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard and instead move to abolish it altogether.

The following documents provide more information about renewable energy mandates.

The 100 Percent Renewable Energy Myth
This Policy Brief from the Institute for Energy Research argues that a countrywide 100 percent renewable plan would put the U.S. economy in jeopardy. The brief investigates the intermittency, land requirements, capacity factors, and cost of transition and construction materials that limit the ability of the U.S. to adapt to 100 percent renewable energy.

Legislating Energy Poverty: A Case Study of How California’s and New York’s Climate Change Policies Are Increasing Energy Costs and Hurting the Economy
This analysis from Wayne Winegarden of the Pacific Research Institute shows the big government approach to fighting climate change taken by California and New York hits working class and minority communities the hardest. The paper reviews the impact of global warming policies adopted in California and New York, such as unrealistic renewable energy goals, strict low carbon fuel standards, and costly subsidies for buying higher-priced electric cars and installing solar panels. The report finds that, collectively, these expensive and burdensome policies are dramatically increasing the energy burdens of their respective state residents.

The U.S. Leads the World in Clean Air: The Case for Environmental Optimism
This paper from the Texas Public Policy Foundation examines how the United States achieved robust economic growth while dramatically reducing emissions of air pollutants. The paper states that these achievements should be celebrated as a public policy success story, but instead the prevailing narrative among political and environmental leaders is one of environmental decline that can only be reversed with a more stringent regulatory approach. Instead, the paper urges for the data to be considered and applied to the narrative.

Evaluating the Costs and Benefits of Renewable Portfolio Standards
This paper by Timothy J. Considine, a distinguished professor of energy economics at the School of Energy Resources and the Department of Economics and Finance at the University of Wyoming, examines the renewable portfolio standards (RPS) of 12 different states and concludes while RPS investments stimulate economic activity, the negative economic impacts associated with higher electricity prices offset the claimed economic advantages of these RPS investments.

Ten State Solutions to Emerging Issues
This Heartland Institute booklet explores solutions to the top public policy issues facing the states in 2018 and beyond in the areas of budget and taxes, education, energy and environment, health care, and constitutional reform. The solutions identified are proven reform ideas that have garnered significant support among the states and with legislators.

The Social Benefits of Fossil Fuels
This Heartland Policy Brief by Joseph Bast and Peter Ferrara documents the many benefits from the historic and still ongoing use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are lifting billions of people out of poverty, reducing all the negative effects of poverty on human health, and vastly improving human well-being and safety by powering labor-saving and life-protecting technologies, such as air conditioning, modern medicine, and cars and trucks. They are dramatically increasing the quantity of food humans produce and improving the reliability of the food supply, directly benefiting human health. Further, fossil fuel emissions are possibly contributing to a “Greening of the Earth,” benefiting all the plants and wildlife on the planet.

Climate Change Reconsidered II: Fossil Fuels – Summary for Policymakers
In this fifth volume of the Climate Change Reconsidered series, 117 scientists, economists, and other experts assess the costs and benefits of the use of fossil fuels by reviewing scientific and economic literature on organic chemistry, climate science, public health, economic history, human security, and theoretical studies based on integrated assessment models (IAMs) and cost-benefit analysis (CBA).

Less Carbon, Higher Prices: How California’s Climate Policies Affect Lower-Income Residents
This study from Jonathan Lesser of the Manhattan Institute argues California’s clean power regulations, including the state’s renewable power mandate, is a regressive tax that harms impoverished Californians more than any other group. 


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this subject, visit Environment & Climate News, The Heartland Institute’s website, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database.

The Heartland Institute can send an expert to your state to testify or brief your caucus; host an event in your state; or send you further information on a topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance! If you have any questions or comments, contact Arianna Wilkerson, a state government relations manager at The Heartland Institute, at or 312/377-4000.