Towards a Resilient Rhode Island:

Responding to climate change with leadership, innovation, and economic development

Smart Energy Strategies

Rhode Islanders spend over $3 billion per year on energy to light their homes, keep the heat on, and fuel their vehicles. Fossil fuels such as natural gas, fuel oil, and gasoline supply the vast majority of these energy needs. Reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is central to addressing climate change. Rhode Island will build from its leadership in energy policy as it builds smart energy strategies for the 21st century.

RI Office of Energy Resources is the state agency responsible for helping Rhode Island achieve a reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable energy future and is responsible for implementing programs including:

Workers insulating homes during the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative’s Providence Neighborhood Innovation Pilot, 2012-2013

Air pollution vulnerability map of SE New England

Photo Credit: AS220 Youth Photography

Extreme heat vulnerability map of SE New England

Photo Credit: AS220 Youth Photography

Renewable Energy: Rhode Island has a Renewable Energy Standard (RES), a state law that sets targets for how much of the electricity sold by utilities must be generated from renewable resources. The first target mandated that renewable energies make up 3% of retail electricity sales in 2007. The standard gets higher each year, for a final goal of 16% by 2019.

Electricity distribution companies such as National Grid can meet this requirement in one of two ways. National Grid can purchase electricity generated from renewable energy, such as from a wind farm, to put in the mix that it sells to its customers. However, if there is not enough cost-effective renewable energy available to buy in order to meet the targets, the utility can make an Alternative Compliance Payment to the Renewable Energy Development Fund, which is put toward making more renewable energy accessible in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Program: PACE is a financing program designed to help qualifying homeowners invest in specified energy efficiency and/or renewable energy improvements. PACE is a voluntary program that municipalities can choose to participate in. The PACE program helps in addressing one of the primary barriers for homeowners that want to invest in energy efficiency and/or renewable energy installations, which is the lack of upfront capital. Energy efficiency and/or renewable energy improvements are repaid by a special assessment paid at the same time as property taxes. The PACE program will provide an opportunity for homeowners to invest in renewable energy and/or energy efficiency upgrades, and also leverage the existing state and federal energy incentives.

Distributed Generation Contracts Program: The 40 megawatt Distributed Generation Standard Contracts (DG) program requires National Grid to enter into fifteen-year renewable energy contracts with private landowners, businesses, and municipalities at a set and fixed price. Currently, wind, solar photovoltaic, and anaerobic digestion technologies are eligible to participate in the DG program. Projects compete to participate in the program and contracts are awarded based on price and economic factors.

The first DG enrollment occurred in December 2011, with five megawatts allocated to wind and solar photovoltaic projects. There were two enrollments in 2012, with approximately 11.177 megawatts awarded to solar photovoltaic systems. All parties considering submitting a DG application will need to complete a preliminary feasibility interconnection study with National Grid, and submit a bond deposit with the DG application. There will be three DG program enrollments in 2013 and 2014 for the remaining megawatts available. The 2013 DG enrollments have been tentatively set for March, July, and September.

Net-Metering: The Net-Metering program allows homeowners, businesses, and municipalities to offset their electricity usage with eligible renewable energy technologies. Net-metered renewable energy installations are generally sized to meet a property’s electric demand. Net-metered systems are allowed to generate excess electricity, but not more than 125% of the electricity consumed on-site. The homeowner, business, or municipality can choose to receive compensation for that excess generation or a credit to their future electric bills.

ResilientRI Energy Strategies

Emissions Inventory: The Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 calls for a preliminary inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions in Rhode Island. This will identify where emission reduction programs are most needed. At least one community review meeting will he held for public comments on the proposed inventory plan.

The results of the inventory will serve as key background information for Rhode Island’s Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Plan, which will be open to public input by October of 2015. This comprehensive plan will summarize the inventory results and develop strategies to achieve the emission targets listed below. Also included will be an evaluation plan for making sure that the strategies chosen continue to be effective.

Emissions Reduction Targets and Timeline: Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is the most effective way to slow the escalation of climate change. All other northeastern states have already set legislative or executive targets to lower emissions around 85% below 1990 levels by 2050 - which scientists agree is the minimum to avoid disaster. Being such a small state, Rhode Island’s mitigation efforts may have only a very small effect on reducing global emissions. However, it is in Rhode Island’s best economic interest to reduce emissions, which in turn reduces dependence on fossil fuels, promotes energy independence and in-state investment in renewable resources and energy efficiency, generates local jobs, and makes Rhode Island more resilient to a changing climate.

Rhode Island’s progressive and innovative action against climate change can encourage bold mitigation in the rest of the Northeast and other jurisdictions around the world.

Setting ambitious goals to decrease emissions also paves the way for further collaborative projects. One such project where Rhode Island has already seen success is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which caps the amount of carbon that can be emitted in nine northeastern states and creates a market for the states to buy and sell pollution allowances. In 2011, Rhode Island’s proceeds from allowance sales totaled $5,043,347.75, and were divided between National Grid’s energy efficiency programs, renewable and/or energy efficiency projects at K-12 schools, and educational initiatives targeted to low-income ratepayers.

The core of the Resilient Rhode Island Act of 2014 is a timetable for emission reductions that holds the state and its agencies accountable for measurable emissions reductions to combat climate change. In 2010, Rhode Island’s emissions were 28% above 1990 levels.

Links:

RI Department of Environmental Management Office of Air Resources Assists the Office of Energy Resources with the Regional Green House Gas Initiative (RGGI) implementation.

ENE: A non-profit organization that researches and advocates innovative policies that tackle our environmental challenges while promoting sustainable economies. ENE is at the forefront of efforts to combat global warming with solutions that promote clean energy, clean air and healthy forests and has recently released: EnergyVision: A Pathway to a Modern, Sustainable Low Carbon Economic and Environmental Future.