The Maryland Commission on Climate Change has declined to endorse a fossil fuel ban in new commercial construction and, instead, is recommending a more deliberate approach to energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.

A determined effort by environmental and climate nonprofits sought a ban on fossil fuels in new construction starting in 2025 for residential and 2026 for commercial buildings. Additional proposals would have changed the definition of cost-effective construction to include future environmental and societal benefits that cannot be monetized at the consumer level. Those proposals would have also incorporated a ‘cost of carbon’ factor into building standards to accelerate adoption of above-code building techniques in new construction and major renovations.

The 2020 Annual Report approved by the Commission includes recommendations to:

  • Develop an energy transition plan for buildings, including a study of the market potential and consumer economics of building electrification focusing on capital and operating costs, payback periods, appropriate incentive levels and potential greenhouse gas reductions.
  • Expand utility-administered, energy efficiency programs to actively encourage replacement of oil and propane heating systems with electric heat pumps. This recommendation would also accelerate incentives to meet an aspirational goal of increasing adoption of electric heat pumps so they constitute 50% of space heating sales by 2025.
  • Create a state incentive program for net-zero energy, all-electric new buildings.
  • Require that state-owned buildings use electric systems for primary space and water heating unless costs or building characteristics would make an electric system impractical.

Even with the more deliberate approach, the vote was not unanimous. The Maryland Energy Administration abstained, citing barriers to widespread electrification of buildings.

The report now goes to the General Assembly and the Governor and is sure to be the catalyst for legislative initiatives during the 2021 General Assembly session.