Rhode Island Senate Hearing on Two Renewable Energy Bills

Jerry Elmer

Two separate pairs of renewable energy bills are wending their way through the Rhode Island General Assembly this session. (By “pairs of bills,” I mean identical, companion bills on the House and Senate sides of the legislature.)

One of the two pairs of bills (S-2185 and H-7413) would extend the state’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES).  The RES, enacted in 2004, was the very first renewable energy statute in Rhode Island.  The current law extends through 2019, and this bill would extend the highly successful program through 2035.  I wrote earlier about this pair of bills when the H-7413 was heard in the House Committee on Corporations.

The second bill, (S-2181 and H-7473) would extend the state’s 2014 Renewable Energy Growth (REG) Program.  In 2014, I was deeply honored to have been asked by the General Assembly leadership to play a role in drafting the bill that became the law; you can see background on the REG Program here.  The REG Program is also slated to expire in 2019, and this pair of bills would extend the program an additional 10 years, until 2029.

On the House side this session, these two renewable energy bills were heard at different times in different committees. However, on the Senate side, the two bills were heard together on February 24, in the Senate Environment Committee.  Once again (as on the House side), the room was packed with people signed up to testify on the two bills; once again, every person who testified, spoke in favor of the bills – including a representative of Rhode Island’s dominant electricity utility, National Grid.

You can read CLF’s Feb., 24 testimony, at the Senate Environment Committee, in support of the two bills, here.

At a time when national politics are becoming increasingly dysfunctional, it is encouraging to see the political traction that renewable energy is getting in the Rhode Island State House. On the Senate side, both these bills were introduced by the Senate leadership; and on Feb. 24, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed appeared at the Environment Committee to present the bills.  In linking the two bills together, President Paiva Weed recognized (correctly) the connection between the two existing laws:  the 2004 RES statute creates a mandate that requires the utility to purchase an ever-increasing percentage of electricity load from renewable resources (like wind and solar); the 2014 REG statute creates a way for the utility to obtain that renewable energy from local projects that create jobs right here in Rhode Island.

In politics, of course, nothing is ever certain. Nevertheless, I am cautiously optimistic that both pairs of bills will be enacted this year.

 

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