How is Rhode Island transforming its energy sector?
Rhode Island has enthusiastically displayed numerous goals and programs to facilitate the development of renewable energy infrastructure. Despite tangible progress, these accomplishments pale when viewed next to the remaining work. Across electricity, heating, and transportation sectors, Rhode Island’s current energy portfolio is dominated by fossil fuels. The State Energy Plan, incentivizing programs, and energy efficiency renovations may begin to catalyze the broad-scale change that Rhode Island needs.
I. Governor Raimondo set forth an objective to procure 1,000 MW of renewable energy by 2020. Currently, 294 MW of renewable energy have been achieved spanning small hydroelectric power (11 MW), offshore wind (30 MW), landfill gas/anaerobic digestion (35 MW), solar (95 MW), and onshore wind (123 MW) .
II. Executive Order 15-17, signed by Governor Raimondo, encourages state agencies to “Lead by Example” in reducing consumption and emissions. Benchmarks of this order include providing 100% of state government electricity from renewables by 2025 and rolling out more emission-free vehicles .
III. The Power Sector Transformation Initiative focuses on optimizing electric grid distribution .
IV. The state has legislated a suite of laws to promote clean energy including i) the Renewable Energy Standard (2004), requiring retail electricity providers to deliver 16% renewable electricity by 2019 and 38.5% renewable electricity by 2035 ; ii) Net Metering (2011), which allowed for the purchase of self-generated renewable electricity by utilities and included virtual net metering, which allowed remote generation of up to 10 MW by municipalities, non-profits, universities, hospitals, and the state and federal governments ; and iii) the Renewable Energy Growth Program (2014), which functions similarly to Net Metering but pays a fixed, long-term rate (tariff) for self-generated electricity rather than per kwh and supports a cap of 160 MW between 2015 and 2019 .
V. The State Energy Plan, “Energy 2035” is the guiding document that will carry Rhode Island to sustainable energy system founded on renewables, including in its pages targets and actionable steps .
VI. Reducing electricity consumption is an important way to decrease emissions. In 2017, Rhode Island’s energy efficiency programs were ranked third in the country . Improved efficiency is being adapted in zero-energy and high-performance buildings . In 2016, Rhode Island had the country’s lowest per capita energy consumption .
VII. The Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund (RIREF) is a grant-based program that promotes small-scale, commercial-scale, and community renewable projects, and is administered by the quasi-public Commerce RI .