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The Baltimore region can be a renewable energy leader. These initiatives aim to get it there

Public and private partners are advancing business-driven sustainability efforts in the region, writes Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore President and CEO Michele Whelley.

Solar panels. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

This guest post is a part of Tech and the Environment Month of's editorial calendar. It is sponsored by the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore and written by Michele Whelley, its president and CEO.

Sustainability and the environment.

These topics and terms such as climate change, carbon footprint, net zero, clean energy, renewable energy and others are no longer the subjects for discussion primarily within academic and scientific communities. Now, they are becoming an integral component of economic and business development strategies and goals. While all of these areas play an important role in lessening this country’s reliance on fossil fuels, there is a notable focus on renewable energy and the initiatives to grow the clean energy industry within the Greater Baltimore region.

Many governments and private sector industries are setting a goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, a goal also established by the Biden administration. Here in Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan has committed to a goal for the state of 50% renewable energy by 2030. Achieving these goals will require significantly more investment in the generation of electricity from renewable sources as well as acceptance of these sources by the consumer — both residential and commercial.

The Greater Baltimore region is poised to be a leader in creating momentum for the expanded use of renewable energy. An increased focus on energy within the region’s rich R&D ecosystem, aggressive efforts to attract more capital investment for startups and emerging businesses applying R&D into marketable products, and increasing public and private sector funding for renewable energy generation are all important catalysts for decreasing the cost and expanding the acceptance and use of renewables.   

There are several initiatives underway in both the private and public sectors to assist the region in advancing these efforts.

Business boosts

One organization created by the Maryland General Assembly in 2008, the Maryland Clean Energy Center (MCEC), endeavors to be a “one-stop-shop” to educate and foster acceptance of clean energy technologies by residents and businesses throughout the state. MCEC’s economic development mission to advance the adoption of clean energy, as well as energy-efficiency products, services and technologies, goes well beyond disseminating information. The organization’s programs help foster the growth of clean energy businesses, increase job opportunities in the clean energy economy and assist in making clean energy technologies, products and services affordable and accessible for residents and businesses alike.

An increased focus on energy within the region’s rich R&D ecosystem, aggressive efforts to attract more capital investment for businesses applying R&D into marketable products, and increasing funding for renewable energy generation are all important catalysts for expanding the acceptance and use of renewables.

The Maryland Energy Innovation Accelerator (MEIA) is one such program within MCEC. The accelerator wraps executive expertise around licensable Maryland-based clean energy and climate technologies to create new companies.

“Maryland benefits from a knowledge economy with cutting-edge technology often discovered in labs and universities, but not as frequently brought to the market for the state to benefit from related economic impact,” said MCEC Executive Director Katherine Magruder. “We saw a need for the coordination of resources to help emerging technologies develop the products and identify markets as a way to grow the clean energy economy, so we created the accelerator.”

MEIA partners with Maryland universities and labs to bring cleantech “from bench to business” focused 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) at the University of Maryland in College Park helps achieve their collective missions to catalyze research into marketable clean technologies. MEII’s interdisciplinary team of leaders in science, industry, government and economics work collaboratively to facilitate the transfer of ideas into research into the marketplace.

A consortium of for-profits, universities, and nonprofits recently created the BlueTechMD initiative. Its goal is to bring entrepreneurs and investors involved in “blue tech,” defined as aquaculture, offshore wind, ocean and harbor restoration, maritime science and more, to Maryland. 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 of this year to increase investment and other resources for startups and emerging companies. The consortium wants to market the region as a hub for innovation, establish members as industry leaders, bring investors to Maryland, bring entrepreneurs to Maryland, and create collaborations.

Energy providers

Considerable efforts are also underway at both Constellation and BGE to educate consumers on 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. One such BGE program focuses on building a network of charging stations for electric vehicles located in public areas, such as in 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.

The Greater Baltimore region’s energy industry is becoming more and more robust as the region’s wealth of assets in R&D increasingly includes clean energy as critical to growing an innovative, environmentally healthy, and sustainable economy.

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 the same source of 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.

What’s next

The Greater Baltimore region’s energy industry is becoming more and more robust as the region’s wealth of assets in R&D increasingly includes clean energy as critical to growing an innovative, environmentally healthy, and sustainable economy. Look for more information about additional work in the energy arena and companies developing new marketing technologies and products for a cleaner healthier environment in EAGB’s July newsletter:

Read more
Companies: Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore / TEDCO
Series: Tech and the Environment Month 2021

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