Parris Glendening: Energy deregulation was a mistake in Maryland
As Texans dealt with the serious consequences of last month’s energy crisis, the policy debate to determine what went wrong is underway in Texas and across much of the nation.
As the Texas Tribune reported, grandmothers slept in their cars, and millions of others were left in the cold and dark. Texans — and the rest of the country — deserve answers.
From Gov. Abbott to Sen. Cruz to national television commentators, the rush to vilify and cast blame was immediate. Visible and relatively new, the fault was placed quickly on wind power.
There are major problems with that conclusion. Natural gas and coal represent 75% of Texas energy production, while wind represents only 24%. Preliminary evaluations clearly indicate that wind power sources were far less disrupted by the extreme weather than natural gas.
If the use of wind power is not the cause of such disruption and pain, then what is? The answer is the state’s 1999 decision to deregulate the electric utility market and open up a wholesale market for electricity generation.
Take it from me: I was in charge when Maryland deregulated our energy market over two decades ago. It was a mistake.
At the time, deregulation proponents touted benefits such as increased reliability and stability of service, but Marylanders experienced the opposite.
Since the decision, Maryland legislators have been working to put the genie back in the bottle after deregulation led to price increases of 50 — 75%, deceptive marketing practices and a lack of regulation to hold wholesalers accountable.
Providing reliable service and increasing renewable sources of electricity are two of today’s most important energy goals. They should not be mutually exclusive. That’s where effective, consumer-focused regulation must play a critical role.