Wrapped around the Chesapeake Bay that saw some of the earliest settlements in America, Maryland is one of the oldest states in the union. One of it’s most common nicknames, the “Old Line State,” stretches back to the Revolutionary War when soldiers from the state played a crucial role in winning the country’s independence.

Situated between Philadelphia and New York to the north and Washington, D.C., in the southwestern part of the state, Maryland still remains an important corridor of commerce, industry and culture, despite its size. And the state is small, larger than only eight other states.

However, with more than 5.8 million people living in the state, it boasts the 19th-largest population in the country, Maryland is also the fifth-densest state in the U.S. Also known as Little America, this population is one of the most diverse in the country. Marylands represents a wide variety of European populations from Germans and Czechs to English and Italians, but is also nearly one-third African American, with a large population of Asians as well.

Maryland boasts the highest median income and some of the lowest poverty rates in the country. Centered as the state is on the Chesapeake Bay, much of its industry relates to transportation, as well as large regions that are still dedicated to agriculture. Given its central location, proximity to the capital and the presence of several prominent universities, however, the state has also invested heavily in high-tech industries, in particular biotechnology.

Especially as the Washington metro area and the associated industries crept northward into Maryland, electricity demand in the state steadily rose. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that Maryland relies on coal for the majority of its electricity, which has seen steadily rising costs, with most of the remainder coming from nuclear power.

So with electricity rates already high in the tightly-packed state, the legislature chose to open the energy market to competition, approving electricity deregulation in 1999. The state delayed implementation of this policy for several years, but the last and largest utility company, Baltimore Gas & Electric, was opened up in 2007. Through 2010, the state averaged electricity rates of 12.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, clearly up from a decade ago but down from the past few years.

At the same time, the state has taken steps to increase the use of renewable electricity in the state. A renewable energy portfolio standard in the state requires that all utilities deliver at least 20 percent renewable electricity by 2022, including 2 percent solar power. Already utilities are expected to meet a 9 percent renewables minimum.

With more than 100 retail electricity providers, Maryland has a chance to encourage green both energy and lower electricity rates.