Power Generation, Transmission, and Use

Markets, Regulation, and Oversight

Impacts of Power Generation and Transmission

Looking Ahead


CEIR Report Map


Maryland Power Plants and the Environment (CEIR-18)

5.2 Greenhouse Gas Policies

The effect human activities have on the Earth’s climate continues to receive global attention. There is evidence that the average global temperature is rising and that carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) are present in the atmosphere at record high levels compared with both the recent and distant past. These atmospheric concentrations are potentially being caused or exacerbated by emissions of GHGs from human activities, such as fossil fuel combustion for electricity generation and transportation, industrial processes, and changes in land use, including deforestation.

Click to OpenClimate Change Impact on the Power Industry and ResilienceSome of the potential impacts associated with increased GHG levels in the atmosphere are global temperature increases, sea-level rise that may gradually inundate coastal areas and increase shoreline erosion, flooding from coastal storms, changes in precipitation patterns, increased risk of severe weather events and droughts, threats to biodiversity, and challenges for public health and wellness.

Maryland has been working to reduce the State’s impact on the climate. The Maryland Climate Change Commission (MCCC) was formed in 2007 to develop a state-wide Climate Action Plan, which was published in 2008. This plan contained 61 policy options, programs, and measures to reduce GHG emissions in Maryland and to help the State respond and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Maryland also implemented the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 (GGRA), a key recommendation of the Climate Action Plan. The State continues to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) with the objective of reducing CO2 emissions specifically from the electricity generation sector.

The latest regulatory development regarding GHGs is the federal Clean Power Plan. This and other key and local climate and GHG initiatives are discussed on the following pages.

Climate Change Impact on the Power Industry and Resilience

The electricity sector is particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather events. As global temperatures continue upward, sea levels will also rise and extreme weather events are likely to occur more frequently. Renewable energy investments are necessary in order to make our electricity systems more resilient and reliable.

Historic tide-gauge records indicate that Maryland’s coastal waters have increased by 1 foot in the past 100 years and continue to increase, with a subsequent loss of approximately 580 acres of land per year along the Maryland coast. As sea levels rise, coastal floods reach higher lands, threatening the reliability of power plants in the affected regions. As sea level continues to rise, increasingly more electric facilities are put at risk. Seven generating stations in Maryland are sited less than nine feet above local high tide, and three facilities are sited less than five feet above high tide. According to MDE’s GHG reduction plan published in December 2011, among U.S. states, Maryland is the third most vulnerable to sea level rise.

Another effect of climate change is more frequent heat waves. In Maryland, mean annual temperature increased from 1977 to 1999 by 2°F. In the late 20th century, there was an average of 30 days per year with maximum daily temperatures greater than 90°F. The number of days with the daily temperature greater than 90°F is expected to double by the end of the century. These trends suggest that extended heat waves in Maryland are likely to occur more frequently and last longer. Extreme heat creates periods of high energy demand due to increased use of air conditioning and cooling equipment, while at the same time, warmer ambient temperatures in surface water bodies can reduce efficiency at power plants that rely on cooling water.

To increase resilience of the electricity sector, certain measures can be taken. Burying transmission lines or elevating or relocating equipment can help reduce the risk of outages, but these options can be capital intensive and may not be a cost-effective, long-term solution. Renewable energy tends to be smaller-scale generation which reduces impact on the grid when upsets occur. Renewable resources are also less vulnerable to fuel supply risks, thus reducing vulnerability to the fuel supply chain and providing price stability for consumers. Further research and investment in renewable energy will improve Maryland’s understanding of the impacts as well as the risks associated with implementing renewable technology in the power sector.

B. Strauss, C. Tebaldi, S. Kulp, S. Cutter, C. Emrich, D. Rizza, and D. Yawitz. Maryland and the Surging Sea: A vulnerability assessment with projections for sea level rise and coastal flood risk. Princeton, NJ. Climate Central Research Report. September 2014. (Download Adobe Acrobat Reader)

J. Hawkey. Climate Action Plan: Comprehensive Assessment of Climate Change Impacts in Maryland. Maryland Commission on Climate Change. July 2008.