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Time to get the ball rolling with offshore wind

By Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley

It's an honor to have the opportunity to speak in support of a bill, the Offshore Wind Act, which will give more Marylanders the opportunity of a job.

Offshore wind would support 850 jobs during the construction period. It would allow us to create 160 permanent, good, local jobs once the turbines start spinning. And if we succeed in establishing Maryland as the regional manufacturing hub for wind turbines, we will create and sustain even more good jobs.

This bill will also specifically help create jobs at businesses owned by minorities and women. Last year, for the first time ever, we exceeded our highest-in-the-nation goal for empowering women and minority-owned businesses. This bill would create a $10 million fund to help us further empower these job-creators, as we harness Maryland's abundant source of offshore wind.

This legislation is important to our jobs future, to our energy future, and therefore to our children's future.

I want to address three issues:

Why offshore wind?

What are the potential impacts on consumers?

What impact will this have on our environment?

First, the question of "why offshore wind?" The short answer is nature. Wind is one of Maryland's two most abundant natural resources. The U.S. Department of

Energy estimates we could be generating 10,000 megawatts off the coast of our state alone. That's enough energy to power every home in Maryland.

This bill would get the ball rolling with 200 megawatts.

The other most abundant of our resources is the sun. The carve-out you created for solar energy has created thousands of jobs, with thousands more to be created in the years ahead.

We can also create jobs by harnessing offshore wind, but we have to act. Now is the best time, and our proximity to both our nation's capital and the mid-Atlantic coast gives us a unique competitive advantage—a unique opportunity to be a leader in the creation of new jobs and the development of new renewable energy.

There are some who would say we should sit back and wait to let others figure this out. But the question we have to ask ourselves is do we want to create jobs here in Maryland by being innovators, leaders, and producers? Economies of scale don't happen by themselves. They are created by the actions, intentions, and choices of people who choose to create a better future.

The next issue I want to address is the potential impact on consumers.

This bill has very specific consumer protections built in. No consumer will pay even a penny more on their energy bill until the turbines start spinning. The most optimistic estimate projects this at four years away.

Once the wind farm is built, you have drawn a very narrow strike zone, which holds down projected increases to, at most, $1.50 per month for the average household.

However, our hope over the longer 20 to 30 year horizon is to stabilize and perhaps even reduce our families' energy bills. Unlike fossil fuels, wind energy carries a fixed, stable, affordable rate that we can lock in over time.

Finally, the question of what this bill would mean for our environment.

Climate change is real. The severe weather we've seen in recent years is only going to become more severe, until we develop more renewable supplies of energy.

In Maryland, through the actions of this General Assembly, we've set aggressive goals to protect our environment. We have set the goal of increasing in-state renewable generation 20 percent by 2022.

Thus far we're only at 6.7 percent. We also have set the goal of reducing Maryland's greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020. We're only at five percent.

Every megawatt-hour of wind we generate here in Maryland is a megawatt-hour we do not generate from imported fossil fuels. Fewer fossil fuels burned into our air means fewer moms and dads contracting lung disease and fewer children with asthma. By advancing this off-shore wind project, we have the opportunity to prevent as much as 7.5 million tons of climate change-causing pollution from being pumped into our atmosphere—just through this first phase of 200 megawatts.

If we believe that climate change is real, wind helps us make a 7.5 million ton difference.

If we believe that fossil fuel prices will rise over the long term, then offshore wind is a reasonable hedge against the rising costs that virtually all experts predict.

Finally, if we believe that new jobs are created by new innovations, then our leadership in harnessing off-shore wind will create these jobs here in Maryland.

For The Record is an edited version of Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's presentation to the State Finance Committee in February, in support of Maryland's Offshore Wind Act. Maryland's General Assembly has since passed the Act and O'Malley has signed it into law. The legislation aims to subsidize the construction of a 200 MW offshore wind farm and create a framework for the development of wind energy off the state's coast.

September/October 2013