The Climate Solutions Now Act – setting some of the most aggressive greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals in the country – has passed the Maryland General Assembly. Now, the difficult, detailed work begins of figuring out how to implement it.

The Climate Solutions Now Act (SB 528) requires the state to reduce total GHG emissions 60 percent (compared to 2006) by 2031 and reach economy-wide, net-zero emissions by 2045.

The legislation lays out specific requirements for the commercial building sector. All existing commercial and multi-family buildings of 35,000 square feet or larger must begin reporting their direct GHG emissions in 2025, lower those emissions 20 percent by 2030 and reach net zero by 2040. Some buildings and use types – such as manufacturing facilities and commercial kitchens – are exempt from this requirement.

Overcoming the technical and cost barriers to implementing the bill’s provisions and achieving its goals, however, will be an enormous task. SB 528 mandates the completion of more than two dozen studies on various aspects of implementation. Those include:

  • A draft plan from the Department of the Environment on how to achieve the 2031 goal. That plan is due by June 30, 2023.
  • A report (due January 2023) by the Building Codes Administration on how to support “broader electrification of both existing buildings and new construction.”
  • Recommendations by the Building Energy Transition Implementation Task Force on appropriate and targeted incentives to support building electrification projects which do not otherwise produce a strong return on investment.
  • A study by the Maryland Public Service Commission on the readiness of the electric distribution system and the ability of gas and electric utilities to serve customers during the transition.

As a way of acknowledging the uncertainty and challenges, the General Assembly inserted sunset and reevaluation provisions into SB 528 that require reauthorization of the emissions reduction goals after the completion of the studies.

SB 528 contains some of the most aggressive emissions reduction goals in the country. A brief, by Michael Powell, a Member of Gordon Feinblatt’s Energy and Environmental Practice Group and the business representative on the Maryland Commission on Climate Change, puts SB 528 into context and explains the unprecedented scale and speed of emissions reductions it would require.