First Distributed Generation Public Hearing in Rhode Island a Success

Jerry Elmer

The first public hearing on the new Distributed Generation Bill, S-2690, was held today in the Senate Committee on the Environment and Agriculture; the hearing was an unalloyed success. You can see background information on the DG Bill in my February 28 blog post.

The hearing was held in one of the largest rooms in the State House, and the room was filled to overflowing. Every person who testified during a long hearing spoke in favor of the bill; not one person spoke against it.

Committee Chairwoman Susan Sosnowski started the hearing with a panel of the three principal authors of the bill: Ron Gerwatowski, of National Grid; Janet Besser, of the New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC); and me. Chairwoman Sosnowski thanked us for our work on the bill.  In turn, each of us spoke about the broad support that the bill has received across sectors, including Rhode Island’s dominant electricity utility, National Grid; renewable energy developers; and the environmental community. That remarkable cooperation was further emphasized by the fact sheet that we gave to the committee, highlighting the major provisions of the bill. As you can see, that fact sheet includes the logos of Grid, NECEC, and CLF.

In my testimony, I highlighted the degree to which the current DG bill builds on the considerable success of the earlier DG statute enacted in Rhode Island in 2011. You can read the text of my prepared remarks.

For me, the highlight of the hearing was the parade of renewable energy developers who spoke in favor of the bill. One developer told committee members that he has five DG projects in Rhode Island under construction now (under Rhode Island’s existing DG statute); that those projects are in West Greenwich, Middletown, Quonset, and Johnston; and that he has invested $12 million in those projects to date.  This developer then said that he plans to commit an additional $10 million to these projects in 2014. Finally, he said, the new DG bill under consideration would ramp up renewable energy development at a rate that has not been possible in Rhode Island up until now.  It was apparent to all that this testimony made a big impression on the committee members.

Successful renewable energy developers from Massachusetts and even New Hampshire attended the hearing to say that they look forward to developing local projects in Rhode Island when this bill is enacted.

A representative of the City of East Providence spoke, saying that his city has developed a large solar DG project on the site of a closed landfill, and the city looks forward to developing additional projects of the new DG bill is enacted.

I expect that the hearing in the House Environment Committee will be held later this month. After that, I hope the bill will be quickly passed and signed into law.

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