Downtown Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

When Americans think about the states that lead in energy, they conjure up Texas, California, perhaps Alaska or West Virginia and – with fracking – now Pennsylvania and Ohio. Maryland isn’t an obvious choice.

But Maryland lies directly in the middle of one of the largest markets for energy in the world – the Northeastern US. A tradition of organizing to protect the Chesapeake Bay has raised consciousness about energy choices and created prolific community organizations advocating green energy, while a strong agricultural community and access to an international port make Maryland a surprise entry as a leader in energy politics and business.

“We have a very knowledgeable General Assembly and they are seeing the benefits of promoting green energy and cleantech,” Maryland Clean Energy Center director Katherine Magruder told Breaking Energy recently. Magruder is busy preparing for the latest iteration of the Maryland Clean Energy Summit, to be held in Baltimore on September 17-19, 2012.

The conference covers a diverse range of subject matter, and draws from across the region for participants, reflecting its importance as a home to huge federal government agencies and one of the country’s leading generators: Constellation Energy (now part of Exelon). “This is the only conference in the state that does focus on the complete picture of renewable energy and how it dovetails with traditional energy,” Magruder said.

Breaking Energy managing editor Peter Gardett will be moderating at the Summit. For more information and to register, visit the conference’s website here.

Coordinating Stakeholder Agendas

The Maryland Clean Energy Center’s remit is also broad, and includes a partnership with Mariner Finance that leverages lending for residential efficiency projects as well as an economic development mission to help consumers and businesses, of which the Center tracks roughly 500 in the state.

Maryland has both an aggressive renewable portfolio standard and greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency goals, and the third part of the mission is to inform and advise policy makers on the often complex tradeoffs that come with building a clean energy portfolio, Magruder said. “The devil’s in the details,” she said, and the Center’s goal is to help stakeholders across the state understand those details.

A major part of the MCEC’s mission is to help promote the growth of a cleantech industry that can benefit businesses, and it is the deals that originated at the Summit that make Magruder most proud.

“We see ourselves in the state as having a focus on clean energy, with the expectation that employment is going to grow,” Magruder said. In a study of the sector conducted by MCEC, roughly two-thirds of responding businesses said that the state’s clean energy industry was either very strong or fairly strong.

Equally important at a time of lingering unemployment in the US, 49.1% of the surveyed businesses in the MCEC 2012 Clean Energy Industry Survey said they expected to employ more workers in 2012 than in 2011, while only 10% planned to employ fewer.

The Maryland Clean Energy Summit gives MCEC a platform to continue raising broader awareness of the issues around the sector, Magruder said. “There’s so much happening so quickly, but the future of jobs in America is the ability to develop technology and bring it to market.” As more people become aware of their energy exposure and their energy responsibilities, Magruder expects cleantech to be a significant component of that technology drive.