Renewable Energy Bill Introduced Into Rhode Island General Assembly

Jerry Elmer

On January 14, 2015, H-5079 was introduced into the Rhode Island House of Representatives. Representative Deborah Ruggiero (D-Jamestown) was the lead sponsor; House Environment Committee Chairman Arthur Handy (D-Cranston) was a co-sponsor. You can see a copy of the bill on the General Assembly’s website.

The bill would extend the life of Rhode Island’s 2004 Renewable Energy Standard, Rhode Island’s first, very successful renewable energy law. CLF strongly supports H-5079, and worked with Rep. Ruggiero to craft its language.

In June 2004, Rhode Island became one of the first states to enact a so-called “Renewable Portfolio Standard” (or RPS). In Rhode Island, our RPS law is called the Renewable Energy Standard (RES). RPS laws are among the most successful renewable energy laws ever enacted in the United States, because they have a track record of actually working to get small, medium, and large renewable energy projects financed and built. California enacted the first RPS in 2002 (with Rhode Island close behind in 2004). Today 29 states have mandatory RPS laws, including five of the six New England states (all except Vermont), as well as New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Illinois, Arizona, and New Mexico.

The principal feature of Rhode Island’s RES Statute is the mandate, or obligation, that Rhode Island’s principal electricity utility, National Grid, buy a certain percentage of its electricity from renewable energy sources, with that obligation increasing over time. The Rhode Island RES Statute started with an obligation to purchase 3% of electricity load from renewables in 2007 and ramps up to 16% of load in 2019. (Of course, the comparable figures for the RPS obligations in other states vary from state to state. For example, the current California RPS, the most ambitious in the nation, ramps up to 33% of electricity load by 2020.) The RES Statute also defines what counts as “renewable energy”: wind, solar, geothermal, and small hydro (under 30 megawatts).

Rhode Island’s original RES Statute was designed to be an experiment, and it is set to expire in 2019. Now that we have more than a decade of experience with the law, and know that it has worked extremely well, H-5079 is designed to extend its life from 2019 through 2035 – with the obligation continuing to ramp up at the substantial rate of 1.5% per year. CLF is working closely with other environmental groups to build broad and strong support for H-5079.

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