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Roger Blunt, Bruce Chatman: More clean energy jobs for veterans

Some of the sharpest minds in American business are making major, long-term investments in clean energy.

Warren Buffett, who is investing $30 billion in renewables, comes to mind. So, too, does Elon Musk.

But you don’t need to tune into CNBC or fly out to California to see cutting-edge clean energy businesses in action.

Thanks to smart policies like our state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, which was signed into law a decade ago by former Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich and ensures more of our electricity comes from clean, renewable energy resources like solar and wind, Maryland is quickly becoming a regional hub for clean energy businesses and jobs.

And this year, state legislators have an opportunity to lock down our status as the mid-Atlantic’s undisputed clean energy leader by passing the Maryland Clean Energy Advancement Act.

Introduced in January and gaining momentum in the State House, this common-sense bill would double our current RPS so that 40 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2025.

By sending a clear market signal to the private sector, the bill would expand business opportunities in Maryland, attract innovative clean tech companies and create more high-paying jobs.

As business executives in the construction and renewables industries, we’ve seen firsthand how the current RPS has triggered smart investments in clean energy across Maryland.

Our companies, headquartered in Prince Georges County with offices in Montgomery County, have been involved in tens of millions of dollars in clean energy projects over the past decade.

Our teams have installed solar panels on dozens of rooftops. We’re helping design and build commercial-scale solar arrays on Eastern Shore farms with high electricity demands. And we were recently awarded the Army’s Master Award Task Order Contract, which enables us to work on clean energy projects on military bases that will save taxpayers money.

While much of the economic impact from projects like these are felt right here in Maryland, companies like ours also rely on a domestic solar supply chain that’s putting Americans to work and also enables us to do business overseas using U.S. products.

To complete projects, we’ve purchased solar PV modules from Green Brilliance in Virginia, solar crystalline cells from Georgia-based Suniva and racking systems from GameChange Racking, based in New York and New Jersey.

If we increase our RPS, we increase the likelihood that growing U.S. manufacturers like these will want to set up shop in Maryland.

And it’s not just solar that will benefit – wind will all see a bump in business opportunities, too.

But what kinds of workers can fill high-paying jobs in these modern industries?

In addition to being business executives, we’re also both veterans who look to hire veterans first.

We work with organizations like the Retired Military Officers Association and the Veterans Administration. This has shown us the value our 440,000 fellow Maryland vets bring to industries like ours. The high-tech training they receive in the military, combined with their maturity and discipline, make them uniquely qualified to excel in clean energy careers.

The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have all made groundbreaking initiatives that include the installation and expansion of clean energy projects at installations around the globe. The Navy, for instance, wants to generate half its shore-based energy needs from alternative sources by 2020.

Because our military men and women have experience in clean technologies like solar, advanced batteries and electric vehicles, it should come as no surprise that the national nonpartisan business

group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) has found that veterans make up a disproportionately high percentage of the clean energy workforce.

As Maryland business executives and as veterans, we’re calling upon our state legislature to increase our RPS this year.

For the good of our economy – and for the good of our veterans – we need to pass the Maryland Clean Energy Advancement Act.

Roger Blunt is founder and chairman of the board of Essex Construction, which has completed more than $750 million in building projects. He’s a former director of PEPCO, a former director of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, and a retired U.S. Army major general who once commanded the 12,000-member reserve unit at Fort Meade.

Bruce Chatman is CEO and president of Essex Renewable Power LLC. After serving in the U.S. Air Force as a non-commissioned officer, he founded several companies and had a 29-year technology career at IBM.