Guest Commentary: Clean Energy Jobs Act Enjoys Wide Support
By Brian J. Feldman and C. William Frick
Marylanders are concerned about the impact climate change is having on our communities, our health, our economy, our property values, our agricultural yields and even the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort. At the same time, Marylanders want the economic benefits of the clean energy economy. That is why we are proud to sponsor the Clean Energy Jobs Act with more than half of the General Assembly signed on in support.
This act will achieve 50 percent renewable electricity in Maryland by 2030, and bring 20,000 solar jobs to our state.
Support for the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2018 is incredibly broad. More than 650 Maryland entities have officially endorsed the proposal, including 50-plus nonprofits, 110-plus faith organizations and more than 325 businesses. The Montgomery County Council, Charles County commissioners and Baltimore City Council have endorsed the concepts in the bill by unanimous votes. The Legislative Black Caucus has made this bill a priority this year, understanding that climate action is a social justice issue and that by investing in proper workforce development, Maryland will create good, livable-wage jobs for many residents who have been previously locked out of the energy sector.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act enjoys wide support from everyday Marylanders across the state, in rural, as well as urban and suburban communities. A recent Opinion Works poll found that 71 percent of Maryland residents are in favor of the Clean Energy Jobs Act. That support also crosses party lines. In District 8, where President Trump won by more than 10 points, 74 percent of voters expressed support. Even more impressive, the poll found upward of 35 percent of Maryland voters would switch their vote for governor based on an endorsement for this climate action legislation.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act is so overwhelmingly popular because it does so much good for our state. It will expand our state’s goals for sourcing electricity from renewable sources to 50 percent by 2030, make significant investments in clean energy job training programs, fund clean energy businesses owned by women, people of color and veterans, and ensure that burning trash no longer counts as a renewable energy source. It includes provisions for local renewable energy projects to procure Made in America materials and for local hiring. The Maryland Clean Energy Jobs campaign would also include a study to see how soon Maryland can reach our goal of 100 percent clean energy.
The clean energy economy is already here in Maryland. Today, the wind and solar industries are putting people to work and providing for families. There are upward of 160 solar companies in Maryland employing more than 5,000 people. Right now, the national median wage for a solar installer is $26 an hour. While there is a growing number of these jobs in Maryland, we have a shortage of people who are trained to fill them. The Clean Energy Jobs Act will ensure that Maryland residents are trained and ready to fill these 21st-century jobs.
As we grow the clean energy economy in our state, we must make sure that everyone has the access to take ownership of it. That is why this legislation would provide capital grants and loans to small clean energy businesses that are owned by veterans, women and people of color. We want a booming and inclusive economy.
The Clean Energy Jobs Act will expand renewable electricity in our state, but it will do more than that. It will bring 20,000 solar jobs to Maryland and train our communities to get those jobs. It will ensure that everyone in Maryland has a chance be an owner of the clean energy economy. It will improve our health and reduce our rates of asthma.
From mountains to sea, Marylanders are sending a clear, powerful and unequivocal message to lawmakers: pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2018. We hope that our colleagues in Annapolis will listen.
Brian J. Feldman is a state senator from Montgomery County, and C. William Frick, also from Montgomery, is the House majority leader. Both are Democrats.