Renewable Energy Bill Heard in Rhode Island General Assembly

Jerry Elmer

A bill, H-7413, which would extend Rhode Island’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES), had a very successful hearing in the House Corporations Committee last night, Tuesday, February 9. (What Rhode Island calls the RES is referred to as a “Renewable Portfolio Standard,” or RPS, in most other states.)  The Senate-side companion bill, S-2181, will be heard later in the legislative session.

H-7413 (and S-2181) are identical to bills that were introduced into the General Assembly last year but failed to pass. But the auguries for passage this year are excellent!

A consortium of leading environmental organizations and renewable energy developers provided a background sheet on the bill for legislators.  As you can see, this bill would provide that the percentage of renewable energy in the state’s electricity mix would continue to ramp up by 1.5% per annum through 2035.

I testified in favor of the bill on behalf of CLF. You can see the text of my testimony, here.  I emphasized that when Rhode Island first enacted its RES in 2004, we were a pioneer and a leader in renewable energy.  Today, 30 states have bills like Rhode Island’s, including all six New England states – and if this bill passes, Rhode Island would have one of the most aggressive RPS statutes in the country.  What started as an experiment in 2004 has worked just as it was intended, and this is the time to expand and extend the renewable energy mandate.

More than a dozen people signed up to testify on the bill.  Remarkably, every one of those people supported the bill.  Unlike past years, not one person spoke against extending the state’s RES.

The Environment Council of Rhode Island, the coalition of all 53 small, medium, and large environmental groups in the state, spoke in favor of the bill.

A union representative from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers explained why organized labor supports the bill.

Renewable energy developers from Rhode Island and out of state (Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire) explained to committee members how renewable energy helps local developers.

Significantly, this year the Raimondo Administration appeared in support of the bill; last year, the Administration declined to support the bill. The change was noticed by the legislators.  Moreover, this year the legislative leadership appears to be backing the bill.  (In fact, the Senate analogue is being sponsored this year by Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed and Environment Committee Chairwoman Susan Sosnowski.)

It was a good evening for renewable energy at the Rhode Island General Assembly, and I am optimistic that this bill will be enacted this session.

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